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Bugs, Bacteria, and Contagious Diseases

Leo (our chow mix) knows something is up. The suitcases are out. He doesn’t care that we’re leaving. He wants to leave in the car too. Nala (our Asian village dog and Leo’s sidekick) only knows Leo is upset. She follows him around seemingly asking “Is there someone you want me to beat up for you? Huh, Leo?” While packing the last items, I’m thinking about getting sick. Travel prep to developing countries is about taking the precautions to not get sick which means you have to think about it. Not the most optimistic way to begin our travels!

A month ago, we went to the travel health concierge, Passport Health. They have personal appointments and cozy waiting rooms for one-on-one attention to our specific travel health needs. Medical prep for travel has come a long way since the eighties when I went down to the Santa Clara County Adult Immunization and Travel Clinic on Lenzen in San Jose, signed in, waited in line, got limited access, had to come back several times and do the same without an appointment. Sort of like the DMV only worst because at the end of it, you don’t get a new license, you get shot in the arm. Back then, I thought it was cool to be going somewhere that required all that prep work. I was a lot younger then. Now, I’m incredulous how far the travel health industry has come. Passport Health provided me with FOUR levels of intestinal aids. Did you think this was going to be a clean post? The many layers of gut protection available now are 1) super-duper probiotics for prevention, 2) DiaResQ and GI Microbix for fast relief and remedy in some cases, 3) Immodium for an emergency stoppage and 4) hard-hitting antibiotics if nothing else helps after two days of trying. I’ll let you know how it all works out. I’m happy to report they didn’t recommend pre-biotics.

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I’ve already got my Hep A, B, and Yellow Fever so that saved me some time but I had to get Tdap, Typhoid, and Cholera.  Tdap is a combination vaccine that protects against three bacterial diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). That one cost about $98 and you need a booster every so often. Typhoid cost about $139 and the soreness in my arm lasted about a week – maybe less. I had to go back for the $349 Cholera drink the nurse mixes up. You need to drink it on an empty stomach so the vaccine can be absorbed into the stomach lining. It took some doing to find a time not too early in the morning but before I’d eaten anything. Vaxchora’s maximum effectiveness is after ten to ninety days of taking it so I hope the concierge nurse timed it right.

They sent Dave to Oakland for the Yellow Fever vaccine. Apparently, there’s an international shortage of the leading supplier, Sanofi’s, vaccine “due to a temporary cease in production”. Dave got the French vaccine, Stamaril, and now he’s speaking with a French accent.

This brings me to malaria. There are no vaccines for malaria! Bill & Melinda – please hurry with your eradication program. There is a preventative medication, Malarone (atovaquone-proguanil), taken in pill form every day starting two days before departure and continuing seven days after returning. That means we start tonight! They say this drug is so much better than the former drug, Lariam (Mefloquine), because it doesn’t have the side effect of vivid dreams or serious neurological and psychiatric side effects. I used Lariam twice on trips to Ghana without incident, at least not that I’m aware of. J The best form of protection is prevention. We’re packing a couple of tubes of 3M Ultrathon guaranteed protection for up to twelve hours. The boutique healthcare team recommends Sawyer’s spray for clothing. After reading all the warnings, i.e., don’t get it on your underwear or accidentally inhale or ingest any, I decided to pass. How much can it really help anyway?

Well, that’s what we’re up to the night before we depart. Donning our battle gear against mosquitoes, bacteria, and other infectious diseases that could be passed to us by our food handlers. That and loading our mobile devices with movies, TV Shows and books, studying how to use the Sony camera I bought six months ago and watching Nala and Leo play tag with each other because it is well past the time for their evening walk and subsequent dinner. The most important word in that sentence being dinner.

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