Africa Journal - Traveller's Medicine


Surprisingly, not too many crazy shots are required for travel to South Africa and Zambia. In fact, all I had to do was make sure that I was up to date on my regular immunizations and get a Typhoid vaccination whose effectiveness wears out after two years anyway. This is an interesting data point because it *may* suggest that in terms of medicine and public health these parts of Africa are only different in terms of the scale of the problems, not the scope of the problems. I'm not going anywhere in a jungle, so maybe that would require extra precautions, Africa or not. Basically the places where I am going are - medically speaking - like the U.S.

Except for malaria. Malaria is caused by a parasite that lives in humans and female mosquitoes. It doesn't do anything to the mosquitoes and the mosquitoes just move the parasites from person to person. Over time people who aren't killed by malaria build up a resistance to it, which goes away after they stop being exposed to the parasite. So I have to take Mefloquine (aka Lariam) once a week for six weeks to kill any little buggers that get in my system. My fear of malaria has greatly dropped after getting more information about it and after talking to my Nigerian grad student who thinks of it more like the flu than as a dangerous threat. One of the great side effects of Lariam is "vivid dreams" and "visual disturbances." So after I eat my scone and drink my coffee, I'm downing my Lariam. Bring on the hallucinations!

The CDC has a great section on malaria here and I'm going to try this do-it-yourself mosquito trap while I'm in Africa. What fun!

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