Health Update

Health Update:  First, thank you everyone for your concern.  Basically I’m doing good.  I know many of you have been concerned, and I just want to reassure you all that I am not dying (or even close).  I’ve had a recurring problem with a persistent fever (102F to 103F) and bouts of intestinal symptoms (diarrhea and vomiting).

The two main culprits down here are mosquitoes and single-cell protozoa (parasite) infestations.  Merida is the epicenter for Dengue Fever (especially this time of year).  I had a moderate case last year, and it makes you mighty sick.  No treatment available except to alleviate symptoms—basically it just has to run its course (typically a couple of weeks). The protozoa problem is most often Crytosporidium parvum or Giardia lambia.  Not very common in the USA, but endemic here in Mexico (meaning you’ve got it, you’ve had it or you’re going to get it).  There was a recent outbreak in the USA (mostly in the midwest states) that was eventually traced back to packaged salad mix from (you guessed it) Mexico.

It is so rampant down here that the antibiotic treatment is sold over the counter.  The key ingredient is Nitazoxanide (sold here under the name of Daxon).  It consists of 500mg tablets taken twice a day for 3-days.  I just finished my third (and final) day.  If you travel abroad from the USA your family doctor will often write you a prescription for the antibiotic Cipro to take along with you on your travels.  Travelers’ Diarrhea is the term most often used.

This latest bout of fever could have been either a mild case of Dengue Fever (again), although I am doubtful, or one of the many (up to 10 different species) single-cell protozoa infestations.  Regardless, after taking a complete round of Daxon the symptoms have been eliminated (hopefully for good).  We are soon heading into the dry season, and the mosquito populations will start to disappear.  I seriously doubt if we will be in Merida for another summer season, as we are both getting itchy feet to continue with our travels.  We still want to travel to Cuba, the Caribbean side of the Yucatan peninsula and San Cristobal  in Chiapas before leaving, but we will probably complete those visits within the next 6 to 8 months.  Hopefully, next summer will find us in a more temperate climate.

Exotic illness is always a risk you take with international travel.  It is not fun, but you have to take it in stride.  And even in the USA you are increasingly at risk.  The FDA no longer guarantees food safety in the states (many more people are getting sick in the USA with food-born illnesses).  Malaria and even Dengue Fever are now present in the states along with West Nile Virus.  All you can do (at home or abroad) is to stay well informed, and take precautionary and preventative measures when possible.  As American citizens we just aren’t conditioned to take those precautions, but as the government regulatory agencies become less and less effective it’s important to pay attention.  For international travelers and expats most of us have learned the hard way.

I try not to expose too much skin in my travels (long pants, shoes and socks, long sleeve shirts are the rule) and I use insect repellant on what skin I do expose.  I use mosquito coils in the house.  And even with those precautions I get bit (I am not eliminating the risk entirely, I’m just minimizing it).  With food I use common sense and good hygiene but, again, you cannot entirely eliminate the risk you can only minimize it.  If you travel you will probably get sick from time to time.  Does that mean you should not travel?  Absolutely not. The worst case of salmonella I ever had was in the USA from a high-end restaurant (the second worse case was here in Mexico from another high-end gringo restaurant).  And since living here in Mexico I have not experienced the multi-week cases of influenza that I experienced back in the states.

So to reiterate:  I am feeling much better, and improving everyday.  Hope to be back on pace soon.  More places to visit, sights to see and people to meet.  Buenas tardes amigos. 


3 responses to “Health Update

  1. Hi Stephen, at least you have the worst behind you. Giardia and cryptosporidium are a lot more common up here then most people realize. It has been found in high mountain streams that you would think would be pure.

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