Monday, 22 November 2010

Stay healthy (if you can!)

Finally, I have disentangled myself from burocracy's (buro-crazy) net and come out victorious through my own odyssey to secure a healthy passage to next year's trip.

I knew I had to start vaccination in advance before the departure, because it takes time, and you cannot have all vaccines and dosis at the same time, but spacing.

So two months now to day D, I have taken my first vaccines.

Two weeks ago I had set an appointment at the Basque public health system, in the afternoon, so I didn't miss work time.

The place I had to go is my usual ambulatory, an eerily clean and aseptic new box-shaped building in pastel colours, where an old beer brewery used to stand when I was a child (there were plans to keep the original building as it was declared a site of historical value, but they 'mistakenly' demolished it anyway).

When I entered the doctor's office he was surprised to learn that what I wanted was to ask for some travel vaccines, because he had nothing to do with it.
So he misled me to a red-brick building that had been closed long ago and its offices emptied, despite his sincere belief that it was the place I truly had to go (it might have been once).

Then I was told that whatever the purpose (in the Basque health system) of the red-brick building had been, it was now fulfilled by a new modernist one, with a glass-and-metal surface in a state-of-the-art architecture style (pictured below).

I was informed there that vaccination before travelling abroad was a matter of 'Sanidad Exterior' (not related to 'sanity', though), a branch of the Spanish health system.

Spanish State's Health System's Foreign Office only worked in the morning, of course.

Last week I asked for a free day at work so I could go there and they would advice me on everything related to staying healthy abroad and most probably they would inject me the needed antibodies.

I went there.
It was centrally located in a beautiful 19th century palace (pictured below) on the main street of Bilbao and beside a park, but inside it had a damp odour and all was in a neglected state, dust covered and unfashionable, with Francoist-styled signboards and unhappy state workers.

One of those let me know that I needed an appointment with their doctor to go any further.

Which is why I went back there today.

I also asked them about where I could ask for public insurance cover in Asian countries, but they redirected me to a different office building, belonging to the Basque health system, on the main street, almost in front of this one.
After waiting on the queue there, they told that there were no agreements with Asian countries, only European ones, so I needed a private travelling insurance.

Some blocks away, I walked to my usual private health insurance building, only to find out that they cover me for 3 months outside EU, with a 4 months maximum if I pay 500 €, not extendable.

Hopeless, I asked at Blue Planet travel agency, and fortunately there is a private insurance that covers one whole year for around 200 €.


No compulsory vaccination was required for any of the countries I will go, but anyway they recommended me to travel quite protected against any unexpected (but common) illnesses in Asia.

This includes Japanese Encephalitis, Tetanus, Diphteria, Hepatitis A, Typhoid Fever and Cholera.

I am supposed to be already immune to more common European viruses plus Hepatitis B and Hepatitis A+B.

The doctor there and I had a long conversation about hygiene and staying healthy in Southeast Asia, pointing to me the most dangerous areas regarding diseases.

For instance, since there is no vaccine against Malaria, just for safety I will have to take with me some pills that have effect against it, but not 100%.
He narrated me the whole procedure in case I thought I had been infected with Malaria, pointing out that cerebral Malaria causes delirium and coma quite fast.

He asked me also to avoid all contact with toothed animals, for Rabies is widespread, and adviced me severely against mosquitoes bites, to prevent them at all costs.

Mosquitoes can transmit diseases like Dengue or Chikungunya, that cannot be vaccinated.
Besides, Dengue could be fatal if different varieties come together, through more than one mosquite bite.

After the scary talk they said I could be vaccinated against Japanese Encephalitis right then, if I paid a tax.

So did I, and they gave me my first dosis against that one; the 2nd and last one, I will have to take it on the 22nd of December.

Vaccines against Typhoid Fever and Cholera are available at pharmacies, and they're regular oral medicines, that I will have to buy and administer myself in a period of time.
The good thing about it, the doctor told me, is that the vaccine against Cholera also prevents most cases of Traveller's Diarrhea.


In the end, I went back to the beginning, the new ambulatory, but instead of going to the 2nd floor, where the doctor's office is, vaccination takes place on the ground floor.

There I had vaccines against Hepatitis A (1st dosis, 2nd one in 6 months, but I won't be here, so it will have to be when I get back from the trip, and then the protection lasts lifelong) and Tetanus-Diphteria (I was supposed to have been given for sure the 3 first dosis through school life, but then two more are needed, every 10 years, to complete the treatment).

They didn't want to inject me so many things on the same day, so I will have to take this last vaccine next week's Monday, in the afternoon.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Good news from Myanmar

I have been attentively following the news of all the countries I plan to visit next year.

Some months ago I was worried about the increasing instability in Central Asia or Thailand, for instance.

But just recently things seem to get better in Myanmar, little by little.

Myanmar has been suffering a military dictatorship for a long time but last week supposedly democractical elections were held.
The main opposition party boycotted the event, though.

Now we're surprised by the release of the main opposition leader, the pro-democracy fighter and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Changes for good, we will see their outcome.

Surely it will be easier to travel there now that the situation seems to improve, despite long steps are yet to be taken in that regard.
Many people were against travelling to Myanmar while the dictatorship lasted, because that would have been helping them economically.

Myanmar is definitely one of the countries in Asia that I cannot avoid visiting, for I have been longing to see its marvels and taste its language & culture since many years ago.