Travel and Adventure

Tropical Diseases

My attitude towards tiny things that kill you dead.

You know your trip is going to be interesting when the travel pharmacist signs off with “Nice to have known you”. Ominous.


I don’t like vaccinations much.

It’s not the needle thing (I essentially spent my childhood in a dentist chair getting jabbed and stabbed), or to do with the side effects. It’s not even the extortionate bill that accompanies courses of non-NHS vaccines.

No – it’s the active researching of the ways and mechanics that you can die, often horribly, while you’re meant to be on holiday. For sure, some of these symptoms could have been lifted directly out of a horror film and have washed away what I thought was a sturdy God complex. It appears I’m more vulnerable than I thought.

Unfortunately my British aversion to wasting my doctor’s time means I’ve accumulated quite the raft of aches pains and niggles for me to obsess over*. In my quiet time, I think I could definitely be a semi-professional hypochondriac. Add to this reels of gruesome reading material around tropical diseases (thanks webMD) and my current reality is shaped by psychosomatic symptoms of Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies, like the urge to avoid water or bite people. In fact, nearly all the best tropical diseases end in death (difficult to experience psychosomatically…). Messy and sensational death – and suddenly I’m transfixed on this.

However, while I might now be conscious of the microbial minefield that awaits, I can rationalize any worry away quickly by remembering one simple fact..

As adventurous as the destination might feel to me, many people call it their home. Potentially thousands of people are living in high risk areas with little or no healthcare, likely not the be vaccinated or even educated in specific disease prevention. It’s almost unfair to worry excessively about myself in those circumstances, especially since I could afford to be vaccinated against endemic diseases that ravage entire cities.

No, there’s no room to worry about meeting a grizzly, messy end and I’m certainly not going looking for any more incurable diseases that could, I don’t know, turn me inside out while I’m asleep. In this regard, ignorance is bliss. Just get jabbed, get educated and go.

*Case in point: I developed an eye twitch after a skull-cracker of a fall while Snowboarding a few months back. It only stopped twitching 10 weeks later when, out of nowhere, bruising in my eye socket emerged and subsided. The fact it went away on its own (eventually) further reinforces the idea that I don’t need a doctor, and increases the likelihood of adding one more undiagnosed brain injury to the trophy cabinet. 


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