On Getting Sick in Africa

malaria pills

unused box of malaria pills, for next time

Well getting sick while you travel isn’t probably a thing to brag about it. And probably so many travellers never mention this part.

I will tell you. Recent years I was relatively unlucky with health matters on my travels.Specially last visit which was supposed to be permanent visit turned out fiasco in terms of health so  I decided to come back home to get well and see whats next.

And I am not talking about diarrhoea.:D

Last year I my goal was to stay in Tanzania and Rwanda for four months. Trip was great, until I collapsed two weeks prior my departure in hotel on Zanzibar. I was taken to the hospital and they found i got typhoid fever. Of course the stage of illness was quite progressive as i didn’t pay attention to my symptoms that occurred weeks ago – from loosing weight, to skin rassh for which i thought was perhaps by bed bugs to many dizzy moments which i assumed was my intolerance to heat and strong sun under equator in Rwanda. I was shocked because i was vaccinated against typhoid and was 100% that i cant get it if i had a jab. So, after three days of delirium in my nice room on Zanzibar i got better although weak but strong enough to fly home and get further medical examination at home.

Even though you were vaccinated, you are not fully protected.

Last September, I planned accordingly with my unfortunate typhoid experience and arrived to Africa with a big pack of all sorts of antibiotics, just in case. Soon after i arrived I started to feel nausea, problems with stomach, feeling fatigued. Many locals told me not to worry its just a change of food diet probably and attitude change, I was in Arusha.  I didn’t want to panic, so i just accepted the advice and hoped for problems to go away. But they didnt. Then there were a couple days I would feel better and again days I would get worse, chills, temperature, blurred vision,… the list of symptoms was endless.

Finally I decided to see a doctor. Got tested for Malaria and Typhoid. Both test were negative and doctor sent me home with words: Maybe tomorrow you will feel better. Dont worry. OK, doctor should know. Days and weeks passed by. In the mean time i had also some other problems with abscess on my gland so i had this little operation. had to take 4 different antibiotics 2 weeks every four hours. My immune system couldn’t bare that, i felt so tired and still sick. To skip my lab visits every two days as they couldn’t find whats wrong with me,  i pushed the doctor  again to make all possible tests as i was pretty certain something is really wrong with me. Finally after  two months they found several parasites in my body.

Parasites. I was shocked! I have never had a parasite in my whole life. Besides I am known as obsessed with cleanliness person! And relieved at the same time to finally know the reason for my awful wellbeing and jaundice. In addition he also assumed i had Malaria, but is not yet visible in blood tests. For better medical examination I was told to go to Nairobi. yeah right. I spent about 400 EUR for taxis, lab tests, medications and now should i spend more money on going to Nairobi. It was cheaper to fly back home and get a decent western medical attention. I admit. I got scared. Although doctors were really kind in their African way, medical resources are basic at least in Arusha. So I was happy to fly back and continue my treatment in hospital for Infectious disease.

I had Antaamoeba Hystolica and Fasciola Hepatica

Am I spoiled? Probably. I am used to small Ljubljana where medical help is within few minutes away, we have ER, etc…  But once you feel so weak and shitty as I did, I got scared for my health. I dont regret returning home where I was able to recover and after four months I am happy to have my weight back ( had 48 kilos on my arrival home) be healthy and feeling well.

Am I going back?For sure! Later:D

PS: Dont want to sound paranoid but my advice is:

Make yourself a favour and test your self in a country of travel. Local tests are much quicker than those at home. Slovenian test took almost a month to deliver results. In Africa you get results in 45 minutes!

7 thoughts on “On Getting Sick in Africa

  1. malina, wondering why there were no reports out of Africa – sorry to hear that. Having visited my most favourite continent a couple of times and come out unscathed, this write up makes unnerving as I keep thinking of getting there again. Being a vegan and picky on personal hygiene myself, thought I could beat it….but now, it’s a bit worrying…

    best,
    anantha

    • Hhi Anantha, nice to hear from you! The purpose of this post was not to scare people away, just to share my experience and to note the travellers not to neglect simple symptoms as in my case. Therefore its better to go for lab test just for peace of mind. I however was a little late with tests, that’s why had bigger consequences while if I saw doctor immediately when symptoms appeared, would be much easier treatable. I am also a vegan, therefore I was even more surprised to contract a parasite that is carried in animals. Please do not hesitate to travel again. I think I was a rare misfortunate case as many people who permanently live there (expats) for years nobody had such problems like me.

      • Thanks for taking time to reply, Malina ! Didn’t think this write up was going to stop me from making plans to get there again, yet the thought of someone like you could contract something was a tad disturbing….guess it could happen to anybody anywhere. Anyway, nice to know a fellow-vegan and that too in Africa :) . If anytime swing by India, will be happy to hear. Enjoy !!

      • Thanks Anantha:D Know knows, if the winds of travel take me to your part for sure i let you know.:D Wish you all the best!

  2. Sorry to hear that you were sick. This type of thing is why I’ve so far avoided going to Africa. Too many horrifying diseases and parasites. I’ll probably go one day, but I won’t bother to get the typhoid vaccine. Seriously, what’s the point if it’s not effective? Hope you’re feeling better. :)

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