Prepping for India and Nepal, Part 3

By UrbanAnthropod, March 29, 2010 6:01 pm

O.K. Now that I’ve got the gripes out of the way, it’s time for some serious business. What’s the first thing anyone thinks of when they hear “India”? They think of water and food borne illnesses. So here, I’ll discuss health-related items we took care of before heading over to the subcontinent.


Just head over to the CDC website to peruse the list of afflictions one might encounter in India.

One should definitely get typhoid vaccinations prior to a trip to India. I prefer the oral route since this last longer. Basically, you get a series of pills containing inactivated (heat and/or phenol killed) or live attenuated typhoid bacteria. Essentially, you’re ingesting gelatin coated capsules of Salmonella typhi from some feces. Fine! They don’t come from feces, but that is the typical route of transmission.

Having gone to school within a hospital and working in one, I’ve been given my course of Hepatitis B vaccinations. These shots came in 3 administrations spaced out over the course of months. So this one needs to be done in advance. This is a blood borne pathogen, which is why all healthcare workers and related fields are required to have this series. Common sense practices in foreign countries should be preventative enough, but it’s still recomended for many travel areas where there is a high prevalence.

My travel doctor also suggested I get a booster for Polio. While the March of Dimes has done away with this in the U.S., it still has some occurrence in places like India. Polio lingers in rural places of India, but can be brought into the urban areas I will be visiting. This was strictly caution.

Finally, there’s Hepatitis A. This is a food borne pathogen carried by flies. It’s also not a huge issue for someone like me who doesn’t drink alcohol. It’s usually an acute illness, unlike the other Hepatitis viruses. Still, I received this before. It’s a 2 course vaccination. The first vaccination protects in the short term, while the second one administered after 6 months provides extended immunity. Sometimes, the second one is not needed at all, but why chance it. While I don’t drink and shouldn’t have too many problems if I do get infected from my food, there is the off chance of developing something worse in combination.

Routine shots are also advisable. Before starting work, my antibody titers were measured. It turned out that I needed a booster for Measles, but my Rubella, Mumps and Tetanus titers were fine. Staying to the cities, I’m quite safe from malaria and Japanese Encephalitis so didn’t bother with those.

Travel medicine aside

This has nothing to do with India, but my travel doctor was featured on Animal Planet discussing a case of Malaria:

Keeping it clean

I have to recommend a very useful piece of camping equipment to suppress these fears of water born pathogens that might give me Delhi belly.

It’s a handheld, battery operated UVC light source that sterilizes water in minutes. It eradicates the mess associated with iodine pills…. and that taste. I always use a UVC light source at my workplace in areas where I need to do sterile work. By damaging DNA (through crosslinking of Thymidine residues), this light kills all biologicals that might be lurking in the tap. I’m told by my coworker that it’s quite common to have a UVC light source in a tank for decontaminating water in households in India, as well. The Steripen is not so expensive and this version uses AA batteries, which can be purchased anywhere. I highly recommend it.

Related posts:

  1. Prepping for India and Nepal, Part 1
  2. Prepping for India and Nepal, Part 2
  3. Transit through India
  4. Taming Thamel
  5. Nepal Maoists

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