Traveling to the tropics usually requires arranging a number of vaccinations and medications in advance. When we researched going to Brazil, the United States' Government Center for Disease Control (CDC) was recommending that travelers to tropical Brazil be immunized against hepatitis A (or immune globulin), hepatitis B, yellow fever and typhoid, as well as receiving booster shots for measles and tetanus-diphtheria. Additionally, protections against contracting rabies, traveler's diarrhea, malaria and dengue fever were advised. Needless to say, we were human pin-cushions by the time we got on our planes for the Pantanal.
|Traveling is great, but being sick is not, so we're trying to be smart about what we do in order to stay safe and healthy.
Although there have not been any cases of malaria reported in the Pantanal for some time, our physicians recommended we take precautions. Malaria is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes; symptoms resulting from infection can include a high fever, chills, sweats, muscle pains and headaches. This is a potentially life-threatening disease, and it is highly recommended that persons traveling in malaria regions take protective medicine, as well as cut down on activities with greatest risk for receiving mosquito bites. So although there can be side effects like nausea, dizziness, headaches and vivid dreams from the medication, we are taking the antimalarials mefloquin (Julie) and Malarone (Jeff), respectively, before, during and after their travels.
The other threat from insect bites is dengue fever – a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes in urban areas. There are several related strains of dengue. They are frequently presented as non-fatal fevers accompanied by pains and headaches in the first few days and sometimes followed by a rash that can spread across the body. However, there is also a less-common fatal strain. Dengue viruses are endemic to tropical regions, and travelers can check with the CDC to find out if any cases of dengue are occurring in the area they are heading.
Because its always better to be safe than sorry, we are being very careful to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants whenever we are in mosquito infested areas, as well as heavily applying bug spray to our skin and clothing. Since mosquitoes love still water, the Pantanal is a breeding paradise for these guys.
We are also cutting down on risks of contracting traveler's diarrhea and rabies by being careful about what we drink, not swimming in freshwater, and only handling wild or domestic animals with proper protection.
Traveling is great, but being sick is not, so we're trying to be smart about what we do in order to stay safe and healthy while we look for animals and study conservation efforts in this region.
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