Immunizations and Travel Doctor
You'll need to see a doctor who specializes in overseas travel. Our health insurance has a Travel Medicine Department which Jeff and I went to for a group travel advice appointment and immunizations. Our insurance didn't cover this expense, so it was out of our own pockets.

We got five shots: Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, Polio, Typhoid Fever, and Tetanus-Diphtheria. We also got a prescription for anti-malaria medication (larium) which we took orally once a week for seven weeks (be careful to not consume Pepto Bismo during this time period as it lowers the effect of the larium; you'll need to use Imodium AD instead).

We were also given an International Vaccination Certificate showing all of our inoculations in case we had to show proof (we never had to). We've had absolutely no side effects to any of these immunizations and the only shot that made us sore was the tetanus. Thank God you only have to get that one every ten years! Ouch.

Do's and Don'ts
Here's a basic list of things you do and don't do to stay healthy. We were told these things by the travel doctor or I had read about them in our travel books.

1. Don't drink the water. Only drink bottled water, and only drink it if you break the seal or if you see them do it. (Apparently there's a scam where they pretend to open the seal, but they really had filled it up with tap water.) Tea or coffee is ideal as the water has been boiled. Watch fruit juices and milk. Soda and mineral water out of a can or bottle is best.

2. Don't get ice cubes in your drink. (No worry there because we never saw any ice cubes!)

3. Always brush your teeth with bottled water.

4. Use this saying when it comes to food in general, including fruits and vegetables: "If you can cook it, boil it, or peel it -- you can eat it ... otherwise forget it." Eat food that is piping hot. Don't eat shellfish or undercooked meat.

5. Avoid salads. The travel doctor told us of a story of a woman who only ate at 5-star restaurants and still got a case of traveler's diarrhea.

6. Mosquitoes bite from dusk to dawn, so in the evenings wear long-sleeve shirts, pants, socks, and shoes. The places we stayed at all sprayed their properties for mosquitoes, so we never saw any! You can get malaria or yellow fever from a mosquito bite.

Traveler's Diarrhea
Fifty percent of people who travel to third world countries get traveler's diarrhea. It's caused by either a virus, bacteria, or parasite found in contaminated food or water. The most important thing to do is keep hydrated, watching your fluid/salt/sugar intake. We were given a "Treatment of Traveler's Diarrhea" sheet in case we got it so we would know what to do, and we were both given an antibiotic prescription that we filled. Thank God we did!

Useful Web Sites
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Prevention & Treatment of Traveler's Diarrhea.
Campylobacter Infections.

Staying Healthy ... or not!

Jeff's hurl bag wrapped around his ears!

This story is not for everyone. Be forewarned!

Well, we both got traveler's diarrhea from contaminated food or water! We were diligent about following all the "do's and don'ts" listed above, except we slipped on #5. What were we thinking? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

What happened is that while staying at the Mweya Safari Lodge in Uganda, it was such a nice place (5-star restaurant) that we had small, beautifully prepared dinner salads both nights. We were both craving salads, and they looked so good! Dumb, dumb, dumb.

The next night while at the Volcanoes Bwindi Camp in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Jeff came down with a high fever. All night he was either freezing with severe chills or sweating like a pig. I had more mild symptoms with a severely burning and bulging stomach. I literally held my stomach and prayed that we would both be well enough track the mountain gorillas the next day. They have very strict regulations that you can't see them if you're sick. So Jeff ended up not being able to go! That sucked!

The next night he broke his fever, and he was feeling a little better the next day. I had him eat half of an energy bar, and within five minutes he threw it right up! We drove back to Kampala this day, and Jeff got the dry heaves twice and we had to pull over. Our driver bought Jeff a throw up bucket in case he couldn't pull over in time. How nice!

We stopped in Kabale so Jeff could try to eat a bowl of soup. We were having a nice lunch with an American couple from Michigan (in fact, they lived near where my parents grew up), and all of sudden Jeff threw up the soup right back into the soup bowl! It was so funny (and disgusting)! I've teased him a lot about it ever since! Anyway, he had dry heaves again twice when we finally got back to Kampala and then he seemed to be done.

He started the antibiotic treatment prescribed to us and within a day, he felt much better. I emailed my mom that evening when we got back into Kampala, and she called our doctor in California. It was confirmed that he should start the antibiotic treatment. I came down with it full blown (no throwing up or high fever, though) on the plane back to the United States. Fun, fun.

We saw the doctor immediately after we landed to confirm what we had. Our stool samples came back with a positive for campylobacter, a bacteria. I started the antibiotic treatment and felt fine after a couple days.

Moral of the story ... never eat salads!!


Copyright 2002, Dawn M. Dalton.
All rights reserved.