Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a travel agent!

First, the ouch-factor - innoculations. Been avoiding them since I was old enough to realise that I didn't like getting a big thick needle stuck into my arm (or alternate body location) and here I am looking to ask my doctor, "please sir may I have another!" However, that seems a far better option than dying choking on my own vomit in the throes of Dengue Fever or Bilharzia (if indeed those afflictions induce vomiting).

So here is the CDC (Center for Disease Control) advice to travellers to the Indian Sub-Continent. Still fancy a trip to India, or would you prefer your chances sitting around in a pool of Smallpox for a couple of weeks? Notice that amongst the usual advice on tummy troubles and malaria, you'll find the plague mentioned! Hmmmm... ring-a-ring-a-roses...

To summarise, the CDC recommend vaccinations against hte following diseases:

"Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months, or be exposed through medical treatment.
Japanese encephalitis, only if you plan to visit rural areas for 4 weeks or more, except under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis.
Rabies, if you might be exposed to wild or domestic animals through your work or recreation.
Typhoid vaccination is particularly important because of the presence of S. typhi strains resistant to multiple antibiotics in this region. There have been recent reports of typhoid drug resistance in India and Nepal.
As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles, and a one-time dose of polio for adults.
Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who did not receive the series as infants."

So, I count that as 9 or 10 - quite low on the porcupine scale, but remarkably more dangerous than a darts match down the local pub.

Malaria advice seems to revolve around taking preventive medicines before you leave, during your stay, and (for some drugs) after you return home. This, apparently, is because malaria comes from a parasite in your blood, and you need to keep killing it off once you return. There is a lot of differing advice reagarding the need to take anti-malarials and also which medicines to take. Whatever you choose (based on sound medical advice, I would advise), steps to ward off mosquitos in the first place seem a good idea - mosquito repellent containing DEET and light coloured clothing being the best things.

Tummy troubles - don't eat and you should be fine! Okay, seriously it seems quite obvious but drink bottled spring water, no ice of any sort, careful where you eat, good post-toilet hygiene (since you'll be eating with your right hand)
and peeling fruit seem to be the main advice.

Another good tip, make sure you've visited the dentist before your trip - anyone who fancies a trip to an Indian sentist should watch the Marathon Man again, then reconsider.

Here's some of the things recommended for your Travel First Aid Kit for India:

Aspirin/paracetomol (pain/fever)
Antihistamine (allergies, insect bites/stings, motion sickness)
Cold and Flu Medicine (well, um, for colds and flu - duh!)
Antibiotics (should be prescribed, and carry prescription with you)
Diahorrea Medicine (like Imodium, but should only be taken if it persists)
Anti-vomiting/nausea meds (okay, enough sarcasm for one post)
Rehydration Drinks (to stop you dying from Diahorrea)
Insect repellent
Eye drops
Calamine Lotion/Sting Relief Spray/Aloe Vera
Antifungal Cream/Powder (yuk!)
Bandages and Band-Aids
Water Purification tabs and/or Iodine
Sterile Needle Kit (well, you might just not want the "doc" to stick you with the same needle as he used on that goat!)
George Clooney (yeah, dream on!)

For more on general health advice check out the MD Travel health site or the WHO information site.

Good health!