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#2186: Health safeguards in Haiti : Russell comments
re: Larium issue, etc.
While I am not a doctor, I have been counseled by many doctors and nurses
NOT to take anything stronger than chloroquin for malaria in Haiti.
Apparently, the malaria strain in Haiti has not yet developed an immunity to
chloroquin and does not need the stronger dosages of larium and other
malaria-fighting agents that are needed for stronger strains found in Rwanda
and other parts of Africa. In fact, when you introduce Larium and the other
malaria-fighting agents into an environment where mosquitos still cannot
resist chloroquin, you can make them chloroquin resistant. This in turn
makes it more expensive to fight malaria because while chloroquin is
relatively cheap, especially in Haiti, the other drugs are much more
expensive (I believe).
So please! Take your shots and pills(speaking as someone who has had
Malaria, Typhoid, AND Dengue), especially if this is your first time to
Haiti, but make sure they are appropriate to the strains of disease found in
Haiti. Otherwise it can cause more environmental and personal harm than
And take extra precautions when you want to eat and/or drink anything local.
It's only once you've been there for a while that you can start to devleop
some of the basic antibodies that you need to fight some of the local
strains of diharreah. However, this does not keep you from getting any of
the more serious disease. I got typhoid in my own house after living in
Haiti for four years and making sure to take all the appropriate safeguards.
I have found that eating street food is done best from a trusted vendor who
keeps her/his oil hot. A rule of thumb is not to eat anything that hasn't
1) just been prepared, 2) been prepared in front of you, or 3) isn't piping
hot. This pretty much rules out anything room temperature unless it is well
packaged. And fruit is fine as long as there is a peel that you can peel
away and that has not been punctured in any way. If worst comes to worst,
you can always make a meal of Dominican or Haitian crackers and La Vache Qui
Rit cheese and fresh fruit. I must admit though I have often broken the
rules by being tempted by fresh mamba ak pen or dous (let, makos, cocoye,
etc.) or tablet nwa.
As for drinks, bottled water is a must. But if you are in the middle of the
country and no bottled water is available, the best thing is to drink Coke
or Sprite -- they are great rehydrators and are readily available throughout
the country, often already cold. However, drink them without ice and
through a straw if possible.
If you are really "an deyo" ask someone to open up a coconut for you --
coconut water is full of vitamins and is great stuff when you're really
thirsty. The best part is amusing the local kids with your obvious
inability to master the art of drinking without getting your shirt
completely soaked. Once you're finished with the juice, you can watch in
disbelief as a child no more than six or seven years grabs a huge machete
and whacks the coconut open for you and makes a spoon out of the skin -- all
just so you can eat the wonderful coconut meat inside -- with the mastery of
One thing's for sure, no one should miss the chance to visit Haiti because
of health concerns. Common sense will keep you healthy, and if you do fall
sick, there will always be plenty of support from locals. Some of my
nastiest health problems have been cured by the common local "remeds" for
all of the local illnesses.
Good luck on your visit!
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