To be or not to be … vaccinated ?

When we went on our round the world trip three years ago, we completely neglected to get vaccinated although some of the places we went to were known danger zones as far as malaria was concerned, notably the Kruger Park region in South Africa.

Maybe were we lucky but we did not suffer from any infectious disease during the whole trip, the only thing that bothered us (quite a lot I may say) was the “soroche” or altitude disease.

In fact it is very difficult to appreciate danger and risk from the comfort of your armchair.

Official website (Ministries of Foreign Affairs in France, the UK or the US) open a wide umbrella and recommend to get vaccinated against every possible disease.

But if you read blogs of returning travelers you always read about fabulous adventures and beautiful places and very seldom of health problems.

However, the countries were we will be traveling in are the usual suspects for malaria, dengue, typhoïd, yellow fever, rabies, hepatitis A, not to mention a nice import from the French Indian Ocean islands the now famous chikungunya. I must be forgetting some  🙂

This is what it takes to make you dead scared, just kidding …

Curiously none of these countries require any specific proof of vaccination at the immigration counter unless … you come from an infested area, which is best translated as if you come from the neighbouring country !

Although we’ll be spending most of our time in danger free regions, either because of the high altitude (Andes) or because they are deserts (Baja California, Northwestern Mexico) we will nevertheless stay 3 or 4 weeks in coastal and/or tropical areas, warm and humid and favorite breeding places for the dreaded mosquitoes.

So after pondering for a long time, weighing in pros and cons, after taking a lot of advice, we finally decided to get vaccinated first against typhoïd and hepatitis A (a combined shot) and then, ten days later against the yellow fever. It was too late for rabies which requires 3 separate shots. So we’ll be very cautions with stray dogs, monkeys, jaguars, panthers, iguanas ( 🙂 ) and the rest of Noah’s Ark !

In France you can only be vaccinated against the yellow fever in specific centres specializing in tropical diseases and the closest to us was the Public Hospital in Bayonne, half an our from home.

In my whole life I have never seen a doctor with such geographical knowledge. After asking us where we would be going he could almost tell us, village by village, what were the sanitary dangers !

Hopital de Bayonne

Hopital de Bayonne

Although these vaccinations are doubtless necessary and useful, they had the immediate effect of making me sick : after the first one I caught a bladder infection which I hadn’t had in years and after the second I got fever, a permanently running nose and hurting joins. I’m still not completely over it and we’re leaving tomorrow !

So we’re leaving with all kinds of medicine which will allow us to face all minor health problems which may arise and also what they call “soroche” or altitude disease which can be pretty awful (some die of it) and which I experienced in a bad way when we first went to the Andes, flying from sea level (Lima, Peru) to over 3500 m (Cuzco, Peru) in just one hour. Quito, our first stop is at 2800 m.

Okay, writing is pleasant but I must leave my keyboard and go and fix myself a grog which is a good excuse to practice drinking rhum 🙂 although we’ll be rather staying in tequila countries.

Speaking of tequila, and to end this post with a merrier touch, you may enjoy listening to this French song. It’s title is “The tequila lover”

Ciao and talk to you later !