Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Visit to the Local Drug Dealer

We all know about the large mammals in Tanzania that have no qualms about inflicting bodily harm on humans, but it's probably the microscopic creatures that we should fear the most. Today, I did my best to combat the creepy-crawlies by getting immunized.

Nurse Sonja at Passport Health here in Richmond stuck me with a couple needles, wrote me up a couple prescriptions, and sat me down to discuss all the disease opportunities I'll have during my African trip.

Most travelers to Tanzania need to be protected against:
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid
  • Malaria
  • Yellow Fever
  • Rabies
  • Tetanus
  • Measles
  • Polio
  • Influenza

I was lucky enough to have been immunized for several of these things already, so Sonja just gave me shots for yellow fever and influenza. (But dang, my arms hurt enough anyway.) For typhoid, I received four capsules that I'll need to take over an eight-day period before the trip begins. (My typhoid immunization from my 2000 trip to Nepal had expired -- it lasts only two years if it's injected, or five if you take the capsules.)

I also received prescriptions for Doxycycline (for malaria), Diamox (altitude sickness) and Ciproflaxine (for my constant companion, traveler's diarhhea).

All these meds are familiar to me from my other travels, but it's always hard to put your mind around just how bad it would be to catch one of the diseases that I'm supposedly protected against. The only one that concerns me is altitude sickness; it's really the only condition on which I need to be mindful. There's no amount of Diamox in the world to help a person who is really suffering from the effects of high altitude. If I start feeling crappy on Kilimanjaro, the responsibility falls on me to determine whether I'm just feeling the typical, every-day-on-Kilimanjaro-kinda-sucks-like-this feeling, or if it's something more serious. Having that responsibility bothers me a little bit; it'd be a lot more reassuring to know that my daily shot of Diamox is taking care of any high-elevation ills.

All told, the office visit and immunizations cost me a pretty $230. The three prescriptions will nudge that amount quite a bit higher -- I know Cipro isn't cheap -- but hey, this is one of those things that you really can't skimp on.