Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More Preparation (boring) Stuff

Health concerns are always one of the big things for many people when they travel. My own sense of mortality (immortality?) has not been strong enough to make me that cautious before. "Heck, I don't get sick!", has been my credo.

In fact that has been pretty good so far. Trips to Europe, China, and Guatemala (among other places) have not been worrisome enough to make me take any pre-trip health arrangements or injections, until now. It's not that I am worried now either, it's probably just that I now have better insurance coverage!

The trip to Central America was a bit of a change, and that was quite a few years ago now with Kathryn and I both being careful. She still ended up with Hepatitis and we both had GI "issues" (that is not a pet name for soldier), that were not diagnosable and lingered for a long time after the trip was over. We never did know where she got the Hep virus; as they say it could be from an ice cube. Moral being, drink warm cocktails!

In preparation for this trip we have done quite a bit more. Linda and I have both been to a Travel Medicine Clinic and had shots, picked up info sheets, and a couple of prescriptions. I had the usual Tetanus/Diphtheria/Polio shot (my Dad had Polio when he was very young), and a shot for Typhoid and Hep A. Linda also had Hep B shots, but then she works in Health care and should have already had it, but never did the booster that would cover her for life.

The prescriptions are for Azithromycin for the much beloved traveller's diarrhea ("tourista, in Central America"), and Malarone for Malaria. The first one I don't relish having to take but having traveled on Central American Chicken buses, I know how hard "holding it" can be!! In fact probably my most creative use of Spontaneous Spanish was "Donde esta los bano proximo?".

Anyway the second is not any better, but Malaria can really ruin a trip. The pills are EXPENSIVE at $5 per! Fortunately this particular drug apparently has the fewest side effects and they only need to be taken once per day only when in risky areas & for a short time on either side of the high risk time. We should only be in that kind of zone for a few days as coastal Vietnam and much of Cambodia is not high risk for Malaria. Angkor Wat is however on the edge of that risky zone, and that is most definitely on the itinerary.

We will likely pick up some mosquito bed nets once we get to Vietnam, as they will be cheap there, but I also expect the hotels to have them in the areas where the little buggers are more of a problem. DEET will be in our luggage as well.

For water we plan to drink beer.

Bottled water of course will be everywhere around, but I am not thrilled with the prospect of going through several bottles a day each in countries where recycling facilities are nonexistent. So I am planning on taking the MIOX from our loaner program at work (pictured above). That along with a bottle or 2 of our own to put the purified water in and hopefully we will be ok.

In case you are unfamiliar (most likely) with the MIOX, it is a gadget about the size of a large marker or mid-sized flashlight. It uses salt and electricity to create a MIx of OXidants (get it?) that essentially kill all the badies in the water. It's more or less like chlorination of urban water systems, and leaves virtually no taste after a few minutes or longer. I could take a filter, but few will take out particles as small as Viruses, and they are bulkier and take more effort to operate. Plus the MIOX appeals to the geek in me...

Actually this reminds me of Central America where they had tried to instigate a deposit system for glass and plastic bottles to reduce the waste. Good idea, but the locals engineered a hack for that system. The beverage vendors would not give you the bottle as they did not want to lose the deposit themselves and I guess they did not want to charge it and refund it later. Their answer was to pour the water or pop or whatever into a plastic bag and give you a straw with which to drink it! Of course this created huge amounts of plastic bag garbage strewn all over. We had to fight with them to allow us to take the bottles with us, even if we overpaid the deposit.

At least they boil the water for coffee (for me) and tea (for Linda)...one hopes.

And there is always beer.

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