I am spending my last free and unscheduled weekend before leaving America Not Getting Typhoid. It’s quite a barrel of laughs. I feel like I’m playing the Oregon Trail, circa 1994, have been going at a grueling pace, and my wagon just tipped over in the Snake River. Better rest, because little Jimmy has Typhoid.
But don’t worry– I don’t HAVE Typhoid. This weekend will safely inoculate me, if I can just survive it!
To backtrack: During my hectic move out of Boston in July, I was pretty excited to finish some items on my endless To Do Before Moving to Asia for 13 Months List, including Go to a Travel Clinic to Get All Necessary Immunizations and Prescriptions.
This last one sounds deceptively simple. Since I am hoping to do some travel around East and Southeast Asia during and after my grant to Taiwan, my doctor and I discussed all of the potential vaccines I would need for each destination. Yikes! “Well, you don’t need the rabies shot if you’re not definitely going to rural Thailand or rural China, but then just avoid animals when traveling, period.”
Alrighty, Doc. Done. But I should not shirk two very necessary vaccines when spending a long time (3-6 months+) in Taiwan, and Asia more generally: Typhoid and Japanese Encephalitis (JE). And as luck in America would have it, my health insurance DOES NOT cover “preventative immunizations.” To be fair, it did cover my Hepatitis A and H1N1 (swine flu) vaccines, as they are “necessary and normal.”
So I had to decide: play the Vaccination Russian Roulette and hope that I don’t ingest contaminated food or water for 13 months, or get bit by any Japanese Encephalitis-carrying mosquitos? Or bite the bullet and shell out hard-earned cash money for these two very expensive vaccines? The irony, of course, is that if I went to Asia, GOT Typhoid, and came back to the US, my health insurance would pay for treatment. Thanks, American Health Insurance System! (I am very very grateful, by the way, to have health insurance at all!!)
I decided to compromise from a cost perspective: pay for the Typhoid vaccine, and then wait until I get to Taiwan and get the vaccine for JE there. The Oral Typhoid vaccine was cheaper than the vaccine shot, and good for 5 years, as opposed to 2. So I plunked down my cash, refrigerated the “extremely small dose of live Typhoid disease” contained in the 4 doses of caplets, and iced the vaccine on the road from Boston to Long Island.
After the first dose I felt a bit woozy and a little nauseous. I decided to spend the day unpacking, instead of trying to coax my brain into a more rigorous activity like writing or reading dense Taiwanese history books.
But after the second dose, I felt GROSS. First I got feverish, hyped up– I thought, due to my usual dose of morning coffee– sweaty and jittery. Then I felt light-headed, confused, and unfocused– again, I attributed this to the tedious activity of unpacking, sorting, and storing my belongings. It’s amazing how much of our physical health we rationalize as a mental, external, or other irrational source. But then finally I had to stop, sit down, realize that I hadn’t eaten for hours and hours, and felt awful. If this is the vaccine, I thought weakly, I wonder how bad Typhoid itself must be!
Don’t you hate it when someone reads you the “Possible Side Effects” to some medication, and then you get ALL of them?
Luckily, none of these were out of the ordinary or an allergic reaction to the medicine. I succumbed to the symptoms and curled up in my papasan chair with a book, some of my mom’s yummy iced tea, and fell asleep for about 4 hours. When I woke up, I felt a bit weak but better. Nothing that watching The Birdcage with strawberries and cool whip couldn’t cure.
Not Getting Typhoid is harder than it looks.