Tips to avoid Malaria when travelling in affected countries.
1. Always sleep under an insecticide treated mosquito net, securely tucked around the bed 2. Keep doors and windows closed after dusk 3. Wear long trousers and long sleeved shirts in the evenings 4. Liberally apply strong deet solution to any exposed areas of skin 5. Always take antimalarial medicine such as doxycycline
6. Do not travel to Malaria affected countries.
If you are unfortunate enough to contract malaria, watch out for the following typical symptoms:
1. Sudden fever, soaring temperature, chills 2. Sickness and/or diarrhoea 3. Intense headaches
4. Mild sense of hangover, easily mistakeable for the effects of two Star beers on the system.
Expect to visit the hospital with the intention of proving your good health, feel ridiculous explaining your non-existent symptoms to the doctor, react with surprise and symptoms 1,2 & 3 within seconds of receiving diagnosis. Take a gigantic pill twice daily for three days and trust a reliable companion to keep you topped up on fluids.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
All of which may go some way to explain my general sense of malaise for the last few days. One of the downsides of the doxy we take as a preventative is that it has a tendency to mask some of the symptoms of the illness- hence, I guess, I had no fever or headaches and although I had been sick the week prior we can't be sure it was the same illness. All I know is that for some time I had felt, bah, a little – how can I say – Parisian…? Just with a sort of overwhelming but vague sense of undefinable dissatisfaction with the world, a general sense of boff, and if someone had asked me what was wrong I could perhaps, with effort, muster a shrug.
On Easter Sunday I sat at home and sulked childishly while Georgie went to a barbecue with friends, and I remained sullen and antagonistic throughout the evening. On Monday I felt almost fine, chatted to mum on Skype for the better part of an hour – and this has been the strange pattern for several days – one day fine, the next less so. On Tuesday I got up to go to work but the university was a ghost town and my driver couldn't be found, so I resolved to work from home. In the morning Georgie described my ongoing ennui to a colleague who was absolutely convinced – as were most people by this point – that I had typhoid. The general consensus was to stuff handfuls of antibiotics in me. This is never my favourite consensus. Nevertheless we nipped across the road to the handy pharmacy shack and picked up some amoxicillin for less than £1 and I popped a couple away with one of the tiny delicious bananas that are everywhere at the moment. In the afternoon we hopped on the back of an ocada and wobbled to the hospital to have the diagnosis confirmed and a short while later, having had my veins brutalised by a lab tech who clearly wanted to finish for the day, a doctor was pressing a pack of the biggest pills I've ever seen into my hand and warning me that the next couple of days were not going to be pleasant.
So here I am, sat at home with malaria whilst Georgie is out enjoying another dinner party.
That's not fair: In truth Georgie has been incredible, making special fluid replacement lemonade for me, bringing me food and generally waiting on me hand and foot. I have been lucky – catching it before the symptoms had developed too badly and my response to the drugs has also been better than I had been led to fear. I've felt no worse than a bout of flu- and a relatively mild bout, at that. So tonight I've taken my penultimate pill and Georgie is out fulfilling our social duties whilst I doze here on the sofa, significantly cooler and calmer than I have been for some time.
Tomorrow we go to the beach, so this is a good time to be feeling better.
1. My list at the top is not entirely facetious: we have been scrupulously careful about avoiding bites, I honestly don't know how we could have done more to avoid this – and in the dry season, too, when there are few mosquitoes about.
2. Neither of us will hesitate to visit the doctor again. There is no way I would have troubled a doctor with these symptoms at home, and if I had they would have sent me away without a doubt. I barely felt ill, but catching it early has saved me a world of pain. As much as the doxy masks the symptoms it also bought me time – I ignored my symptoms for several days, and without the antimalarials that could have been costly.
3. Trust in each other was important, too. In the end it was Georgie that insisted I go to get checked – I would probably still have waited.
4. Everyone has different symptoms. My temperature was perfect, I had no aches and no sickness. I had trouble sleeping, with hindsight I was probably sweating more than I previously had – but it has been so hot it was hard to tell – I was incredibly moody (we at least hope this was due to the malaria….) and finally my throat got sore and my asthma began to act up.
5. Malaria is common here. I mean, I know that sounds obvious but I had been wondering for some time beforehand about the actual percentage chance of catching malaria from a given bite, given that not all mosquito types carry malaria and then not all of those who could carry malaria are infected. I reckoned if you were cautious and took the recommended precautions the odds of catching it would be relatively low. Maybe they are, maybe I was exceptionally unlucky, but the point is, it is common – and by that I mean that the country is set up for it. It's one thing they are really good at. You get a mark out of 4 for your level of infection and treated or admitted to hospital accordingly. People here catch it multiple times a year – it's more common than a cold – so ultimately, if you're going to have malaria, there's almost no place I'd rather have it.
And we still have to tell the story of Bo.