Tuesday, December 04, 2007

My body is teeming with microorganisms!

I haven't noticed any adverse side effects yet, but my body is teeming with microorganisms right now. Tonight I received five vaccinations - one each for yellow fever, polio, typhoid, hepatitis-A, and the flu. I'll be going to Africa - Kenya and Tanzania more specifically - in a few weeks. In preparation for the trip, I visited a travel clinic at a local hospital to find out what was recommended for preventive medicine.

The clinic was pretty informative, although it took way more time than I expected. I had a 5:00 appointment, but didn't finally get out of the hospital until some time after 7:00. In turns out the clinic consisted of an initial group seminar led by a doctor who explained all the different vaccinations and medicines , their benefits and risks, which ones are needed based on travel destination and so forth. The doctor then asked each of us in the group which of the vaccines and other preventative medicine prescriptions we wanted. I opted for getting pretty much everything that was recommended, including a prescription for anti-malaria pills.

The yellow fever vaccination was kind of scary to read about. I had to sign a waiver for it and the doctor warned me there was a chance I could die from it. Seriously. It's only a small chance, but still, it happens. The vaccination is required for entry into Kenya and Tanzania, so I didn't really have much of a choice. And yellow fever sounds pretty nasty, too, so I was happy to get the vaccination. Fifteen percent of the people who contract yellow fever end up with really awful symptoms within 24 hours - including vomiting blood and other such nastiness. Of those who get these terrible symptoms, half of them die within two weeks! There's no cure for the disease once you contract it, either. Your body has to just fight it off on its own. So, here's hoping the vaccine works as advertised....

The choices for malaria drugs were interesting. I don't remember the exact details anymore, but there were three options - one drug had side effects that included causing bad dreams and depression, another lacked any significant side effects but had to be taken once a day and cost $15 per pill, and a third option was more reasonably priced, but caused sensitivity to sun. I was tempted by the idea of a drug that causes bad dreams, but instead opted for the sun sensitivity. The $15 per pill option (Malarone) had to be taken for a significant number of days after the trip, so the complete dosage would have cost me about $300. Yikes!

As it was, including the costs of the vaccines, this trip to the doctor cost over $350. The good news is most of these vaccines are good for 5 or more years, so it's not like I'll need to get them again any time soon.

I'll be sure to post a followup if I develop any super powers from this combination of vaccines and medicine.