12 Dec 2009 ::
Centuries ago, the brave few travelled afar without the benefit of inoculations. If they returned, they probably picked up immunity along the way. Travel back then was a much slower affair. Today, however, it is faster than a speeding bullet, and the ramifications are different. Our bodies have not evolved to adjust to the speedier modes of transportation.
Consider all the possible contagions, bacteria and bugs that live in remote countries that our bodies have not met. Exposure to these foreigners cause any number of discomforts: diarrhea, nausea, pain, rash, etc. Some can lead to death: encephalitis, malaria, cholera, typhoid, dengue, etc. Modern medicine can inoculate travellers to most of these disease-baring critters, but there are a plethora of precautions the modern-day traveller must also take: insect repellents, sunblock, mosquito nets…
My mind boggles. I go for “simple” vaccinations and sit through an hour-long presentation of diseases, their causes, and what precautions I must take to protect myself from infection. Then I get the vaccinations, but not the seasonal or H1N1 flu shots. That I have to get elsewhere. These shots are not free. The vaccine for encephalitis is about $300. Fortunately, I didn’t need that one. The ouch factor is directly proportional to the cost factor.
Just in case you think that’s all there is to it, think again. Apparently, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of injury for travellers in India. One web site recommended the following:
- avoid drinking and driving;
- wear your safety belt;
- follow the local customs and laws regarding pedestrian safety and vehicle speed;
- obey the rules of the road;
- avoid boarding an overloaded bus or mini-bus;
- where possible, hire a local driver.
These recommendations assume that there are safety belts in all Indian vehicles, that there are laws or rules of the road, that the locals obey those laws or rules, that there is such a thing as an uncrowded bus, and that the driver you hire adheres to the first recommendation. HA!
For the most current health information for India visit the CDC web site.