Sunday, June 04, 2006

Eaten Alive, But Malaria Free

I can honestly say with a good amount of confidence that the threat of malaria is extremely low in Dumaguete—or else I was just very lucky. Even with the aid of OFF bug deterrent I endured at least a few dozen bites from a variety of insects over the course of two weeks. Some of the resultant red welts were not only insanely itchy, but much larger than I had ever experienced in the U.S. I honestly believe I was bitten by more than just "macho" Dumagueteño mosquitoes, though I shudder to think what kinds of winged and/or crawling creatures feasted on my type-A blood. When I consulted with my doctor before leaving the U.S. it was suggested that I invest in some anti-malarial pills. Because they are intended as a preventative measure the regimen must be started 1-2 weeks before exposure to the potential pathogens, maintained throughout exposure, and continued 2 weeks after the exposure has ended. In my case it was going to require about 5-6 weeks worth of disciplined pill-taking. Needless to say, I stopped about 4 days after arriving in Dumaguete and didn't think much of it until I left the country. At that point the anxiety started to settle in as I itched all the way home to the U.S. Could one of these bites be infectious? Could I possibly develop malaria because I was too lazy to take a few pills? Admittedly, I monitored my health quite closely over the next few weeks. The only problem I encountered was a terrible sore throat that began on the plane and lasted for two days after I got home. At the very least I'll remember to drink more water next time I'm on a 13-hour plane ride. However, unless I'm planning a trip to the Sulu archipelago (which is really the only malaria zone in the Philippines), I will likely forego any sort of anti-malarial drugs next time.


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