Planning your first big trip? Advice and humor to get you through the process.
One Day at the Vaccine Clinic
A traveler encounters every hypochondriac's nightmare: sharp needles, dreaded diseases, and a nurse who enjoys her job a little too much.
Rabies, cholera, plague, hepatitis, typhoid, typhus, trench fever, yellow fever, dengue fever, diphtheria, and, of course, dysentery.That's a partial list of the disorders I could encounter on a recent trip to less developed areas like Venezuela, South Africa, and South East Asia. According to conventional wisdom, I wasn't supposed to eat the food, drink the water, or kiss the women. Walking bare foot and swimming in fresh water were definitely out. Still, there was one thing I dreaded more than any ghastly Third-World disease: the pre-trip visit to a vaccine clinic.
At my appointment, I found a seat in the non-descript, hospital waiting room. AARP, Time, and other magazines were strewn on an industrial-strength coffee table. The other patients talked excitedly about their upcoming trips. I really didn't want to talk to anyone; I just wanted this over with. After waiting about 15 minutes, a nurse popped her head out from behind a hallway door, called my name, hustled me into her office and asked where I was going.
"Venezuela, Greece, South Africa, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and possibly Vietnam, Burma or Cambodia or Laos," I said.
"Oh, how exciting. Must be nice to get so much time off."
"Umm, I just got laid off."
"Oh," she said, as if I had already contracted some communicable disease.
Then she turned to her computer, struck a few keys and announced with glee that I’d need at least seven shots. Better yet, I couldn't get them all in one visit. I couldn't get them all in two visits. I'd have to come back three times.
Next she printed maps highlighting the malarial zones in Venezuela, South Africa, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, and Laos. On several maps she marked which antibiotics I should take in case I got an exotic case of the runs. In Cambodia and Vietnam I'd take Ciprofloxacin. In Thailand, it would be Azithromycin. By the time I was done at the clinic, I was afraid to leave my apartment, never mind the country.
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