Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The 10th good thing about Lagos: Malarone

The other night about 9 PM Brent and I were walking home from the movie theater two blocks away from the apartment building. He remarked that this was the most dangerous time of day here. I immediately moved a bit closer to him, as I thought he was referring to crime -- that ever-present danger here that requires you to have a heightened awareness of what's around you. But he clarified that actually what he meant was the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes. Before I left Houston I was looking for a travel narrative on this part of the world to read on my trip. I just finished the only one I found in the store, a very interesting book called "To Timbuktu: A Journey Down the Niger," by Mark Jenkins. It's a narrative of a trip to the unexplored headwaters of the Niger River in 1991 by some true adventurers. It had an interesting passage on the dangers of Africa:
"It is the small creatures that cripple and kill in Africa. The storybooks lie. Lions and leopards are insignificant. Viruses, amoebas, insects, worms, bullets, these are the predators of Africa...Sleeping sickness, trypanosomiasis, is transmitted by the tsetse fly. Typhus is transmitted by ticks. Malaria, the ancient mass murderer of Africa that deftly kills a million people a year, is transmitted by the mosquito. So is yellow fever. AIDS is a mere virus that is annihilating entire countries. Still, you don't hear that much about any of them. They are too common. Many Africans have one or another of these infirmities and they live with them, don't whine, and die quietly. Insalubrity is a natural state. An undiseased body, without wounds or worms or parasites, is what is unnatural. What you hear about, of course, are the attacks by the larger assassins, lions or leopards[or, I might add, humans]. They aren't any more courageous -- they also take the young, the weak, or the ill. But because their ferocity is so rare and so dramatic, it makes for better stories. Even the Africans think so."
Malaria is a parasite carried in the saliva of female mosquitoes. (Beware the bite of a female! Of course, since I have no idea how to determine the gender of each individual mosquito, I've decided to attempt to avoid the bites of ALL mosquitoes!) Nigeria is a country with a malaria risk. Within the city of Lagos, of course, there is less risk than in other, more rural and jungleified, parts of the country. But the risk is still such that we expatriates are required to take malaria prophylaxis, which the company pays for. There are several drugs available, none of which will totally eliminate your chances of contracting malaria, but they can greatly reduce your chances of getting it and, if you do contract it, you will probably have a milder bout. Before I left, it was recommended that I take Malarone, which is a pill that is a combination of two drugs. I have to take one pill a day, which I started two days before arriving in Nigeria and I'll continue taking it 7 days after I leave. I haven't noticed any side effects. There is another drug, Larium, that some people take because it's cheaper and it only requires one pill weekly. A common side effect with this drug is more frequent dreams that are extremely vivid. I'm thinking that if the dreams were fun ones, that might be a drug I want to test out sometime!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mom, I'm glad you're not having problems with the malaria pills-- I heard bad things about them, so that's a relief. Your pictures and stories are so cool and exciting. You're even making me want to go. (but for $8000 flight tickets, that's probably never gonna happen!)