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Day 99: Sh!t About Travel That Scares the Sh!t Out of Me

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Day 99:  Flu Shot

Day 99: Flu Shot

After breakfast on day 99, Patrick’s dad told us he brought home a couple of flu shots for us both, which is a good thing especially since we are heading overseas in less than a month now. I was casually finishing my coffee when the next thing I know I had a needle stuck in my arm — not exactly my favorite thing in the world.

But I do it. I get vaccines because I don’t want to get sick or get some strange, potentially life-threatening, disease on my travels. Before I set off back in 2007, I spent hundreds of dollars making sure I had the proper defenses in line. Hepatitis A + B, typhoid, yellow fever, whooping coughcheck.

Only, this is just a start to some of the freaky ass weird shit you can get when you travel, and with all the commotion lately from various fronts, I’m getting a little weirded out!

Take Nomadic Chick, for instance. The poor girl is in India, the capital of unclean, battling one ruthlessly strong case of staph infection. I really have to give it to her; I’d be in a pit of my own despair, but she comes off as someone (although struggling) still looking to the future and future travels.

Someone we know here in Sydney picked up a case of leishmaniasis, and oh my god is this not another skin-eating nightmare? He picked it up from sand flies while in Tunisia, and he is now still getting treatments for it months later.

Rob from Stop Having a Boring Life talks about his experience of getting malaria even while taking anti-malaria pills. It’s a very debatable topic, and I think I still stand by taking malaria medication because if it does lessen the risk, then that rocks. However, if it helps to also mask the symptoms if you happen to contract it, that doesn’t rock.

Shit like this freaks me out, and I try not to think about it… but the truth is that these risks are there when we travel. How do you deal with these risks mentally and physically while on the road?

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22 Responses to Day 99: Sh!t About Travel That Scares the Sh!t Out of Me

  1. Nomadic Chick April 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Oh man, I didn’t mean to scare you! I thought the same things, India baaad… then found out you can get staph anywhere. What does it in India is the heat.

    We all have “bacteria” naturally under our skin, but once you combine heat and bact, oh look out…

    I am getting better, I swear! Medical care in Delhi is very good. And I’m enjoying catching up with sites I love (like yours) and watching movies I missed.

    🙂

    • Brooke April 10, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

      Before your story, staph freaked me out. My mom had a coworker that was fighting it for YEARS in the States! I, personally, am not strong when it comes to things out of my control like bacterial infections that eat skin. I would probably have been on the first flight back home and in a personal state of “all is wrong in the world” until cured.

      But I’m glad to hear that you’re doing better, and I can’t wait for you to kick staph’s ass!!!! 😀

  2. Sabina April 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    I don’t know, Brooke. I really, really regret spending almost $900 (nine hundred dollars!) on innocculations before I left home. What a freaking waste. The one I don’t regret is Hepatiis. I spent SO much money, that I didn’t even bother to get my malaria pills prescription filled. I was in SE Asia for ten weeks and sometimes woke up with mosquito bites all over my face – totally unprotected. I just couldn’t stand to waste any more money on protecting myself from illnesses I probably won’t even get.

    • Brooke April 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

      I can see both sides of it, but for me personally… I’d rather spend the money than regret it later on. I would just kick myself, and the illness would probably kill my love for life for a while. It’s just the type of person I am; when one thing is off, whole life is off. It would make it worse if I knew I could have done something in advance to reduce risk.

  3. Iain April 10, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    You don’t have to get every innoculation, or even most innoculations, before leaving home. I got Japanese Encephalitis and Meningitis in Shanghai, where I lived for three years. I then got Typhoid in Mumbai. A few weeks later I found out that a doctor in Gokarna, a fishing village in South India, could have arranged to give me all three. The rest of my innoculations were valid from years before, and I got those at home in South Africa, which is a travel destination for lots of people, and has cheaper medical costs than the USA.

    Unless your first stop is the jungles of Borneo, you might be better off doing some research and waiting until you leave to get innoculated. And I think that they’re worthwhile, for peace of mind at least.

    • Megan April 12, 2011 at 6:49 am #

      Great comment. I totally agree and despite my warning most US travelers I talk to don’t shop around for the best deal if they get them in the States. There’s a huge variety of prices.

  4. Dina April 11, 2011 at 3:44 am #

    I guess just face it when the time comes. Before that, enjoy your life to the fullest. Chance of getting injured in a road accident is high, but that doesn’t make people in general scared or being hesitate about riding on a car.
    We took vaccines before we left. But not the super expensive ones. We were taking anti malaria pills in some part of Honduras that had malaria problem and indeed had terribly tons of mossies.

    But then, I’m traveling with partner. It must be much harder for solo travelers..

  5. Codruta April 11, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    I never, ever invested in those shots, and never (to date) regretted it.
    I DID regret paying for Heath Insurance when I went abroad with SWAP (200$ or something), although it was mandatory – I ended up going to the dentist once and it cost me 90 euros. Hardly worth the difference.

    I just think that if it’s going to happen, it’s gonna happen and you can’t prevent it much. And it costs so damn much… I’d rather spend it on myself while traveling and take the risk.

    • Brooke April 11, 2011 at 10:22 am #

      Re: Health Coverage — What about emergency situations that costs thousands and thousands of dollars? Those are the reason I get coverage. Stuff like that would not only take all the money out of travel funds, but also potentially put you in debt for years without some of the coverage. No?

      • Codruta April 11, 2011 at 11:07 am #

        Sure, but the likelihood that they actually happen to you is extremely close to 0. The way I see it, it can always happen, even at home… traveling doesn’t increase the risks. So you might pay thousands and thousands of dollars in insurance when nothing is ever going to happen. That’s thousands and thousands of dollars you could have enjoyed or not worried about getting. It’s mostly just luck anyway.

  6. Amanda April 11, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    I’d probably spend the money, too, Brooke, if only for peace of mind. Like you said, if I skipped the shots and then caught something nasty while abroad, I’d be so pissed at myself. Better safe than sorry, right?

    But, as for your fear of catching something bad while traveling — you could catch all those above mentioned diseases anywhere in the world; you don’t even have to be a traveler. I know, though, that you don’t let the threat of danger keep you from traveling, so that’s at least good. A lot of people would look at the sorts of things that you’re scared of and vow never to leave the country again!

  7. Adam @ SitDownDisco April 11, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Insurance is always a rip off until you actually need it. That’s the point. All it takes is to have a motorbike or car accident in southeast Asia and you’re gone. If you break your leg badly in Indonesia, you can have it fixed locally. Likewise with Laos. But the care is not up to standard and the best option is to be medevaced to Singapore or some other place with 1st rate care. You need insurance for that.

  8. Lauren April 11, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    I am weird about vaccines just because I have a prior history of a syndrome that has appeared in individuals after getting vaccines against things like meningitis (I didn’t get the syndrome from a vaccine, but it still scares me that I could get it again from a shot).

    I agree with you and Adam that health insurance is necessary particularly for “possible” emergencies. It’s just like any other insurance. One night in the hospital is enough to cripple you financially without coverage.

  9. Mirage April 11, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    I have never spent money on vaccines and such. I think it is total waist – vaccines are not that protective anyway and doing all that gives the impression that “home” is safe, while “abroad” is full of sicknesses, which is so not the case if you check the statistics – one in every three people in USA has some form of cancer. I don’t think anywhere is really so scary that you need to have a thousand vaccines, but a health insurance might give you some peace of mind. My personal belief is that the more you are afraid of diseases and try to protect yourself, the bigger is the chance to get one. My mother is really scared of ticks and she never walks on grass and avoids being close to grass and she is always the one to get bitten by a tick when we go for a picnic, even though everyone else sits on the grass and she sits on a chair.

  10. bethany April 12, 2011 at 5:52 am #

    Personally I am so fed up w/ the entire US healthcare system I hardly believe any of it anymore. BUT i still got the Hep shots and I know I will get a couple more when we land in Bangkok. I still to this day have never gotten the flu shot and I don’t think I ever will. I am actually trying to do a lot of research on vitamins, etc because I just don’t like typical medicine. Never have. It kills me I am on a medication that i have to take every day but until I do my research and try to find a way off it I have no choice. As for insurance – anyone who is debating this should just GET IT. It kills me when people don’t get it because like the above poster said – you get it for the time that you do need it. It is not a risk worth taking. All it takes is one bad cell that multiplies or one bad accident.

    I will get travel insurance as well for our next big jaunt because it’s just not worth the risk.

    The entire system needs to be changed but I doubt very highly that will ever happen. There is too much big business in the pharma companies & government. Everyone has their hand out. Let’s face facts – they don’t get rich off healthy people. They want you to be sick, which is why they keeping feeling us bullshit lines about what healthy really is. I trust none of it but I still get the insurance because I have to protect myself. As for the shots I really have to weigh the benefits of each one before I decide to do it or not.

  11. bethany April 12, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    oh yeah a note on Staph too – you can def. get it anywhere. I have gotten it in Scotland, San Diego & MA. the most common thing in common after I have gotten it each time has been air travel. Seriously. I had been on a plane previously before contracting it. Later I read that staph is rampant on most surfaces in a plane.

    The issue is having a break in the skin after getting in contact with it. So the last time i got it (which was a horrible, horrible case) I remembered actually scratching my tummy in the same spot after I had boarded the plane back to MA. The same spot I ended up getting Staph. Now i try to touch as little as possible in public places and definitely on planes. Planes are disgusting – even the magazines. The other rule I have is I will not scratch my skin and if I have an itch I will only scratch it through clothing. I will not let my fingers touch my skin if I have touched public things. I am very conscious about it now. I was never the type of person to care about touching things or worried about community germs but after several staph infections I have learned to care about it. Since instituting my new rules I have not gotten a single infection.

    Another popular place to pick it up is at a gym. I got a mild case once from a yoga mat (now i only use my own) and a friend of mine actually had to be hospitalized from a bad case of MRSA she got from a yoga mat at another gym. Gross.

  12. Claire April 14, 2011 at 7:12 am #

    And good lord, what even IS leishmaniasis? Never heard of it until right this moment, but it sounds positively diabolical. I usually like to get the shots too, but balk at spending hundreds on one. So when I arrived on Zanzibar, I merely made the 4 a 9 on my yellow fever vaccination card-conveniently making it current in compliance with Zanzibarian regulartions. My proudest moment? nah, but my checkbook was happy.

    • Brooke April 20, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

      Oooh Claire, you’re a rebel! 😉 I just can’t do it. The thought of spending a hundred bucks on a shot — yes it is a lot of money — but it’s stuff like that that’s worth it to me.

  13. megan April 14, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    Vaccinations are a personal choice, and you can try other ways to avoid getting sick. my choice is to get them. I also take malaria tablets when I’m visiting somewhere with crazy mosquitoes because if anyone in the room, or at the outdoor cafe or pretty much anywhere in the world, is going to get bitten, it’s going to be me.

    So that’s neither here nor there but anyone who travels overseas without even basic travel/health insurance? That gets a big hmmmmmmmmm from me!

    See: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/10/12/2711030.htm

    • Brooke April 14, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

      Thanks for the link, Megan. The article is the sort of thing it’s all about.

  14. Joanne Derosie October 8, 2012 at 2:34 am #

    Staph infections can be a very painfull experience specially if you got the full infection within days. ,’.”‘

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