Let’s begin with a disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional and am in no position to offer advice – except, “Consult your doctor sooner rather than later.” The tales here are my own experiences and unqualified opinions -plus a little extra online research. Get professional advice!
Into the Underworld
I was ill for over a week after receiving a cocktail of vaccinations for my trip to Russia – including a 3-day bedridden period spent aching and essentially immobile. The initial symptoms had hit me like a hammer less than 12 hours after the jabs, along with the surprise realisation of: “Hey, I’m actually getting ill,” as the shivers set in and my joints began to ache. Then the sharp descent began.
Perhaps it was bad luck, or perhaps it was a factor of the shortened course that consisted of only two potent doses, but either way; I was decidedly “out” for 72 hours as my body kicked against this invasion of modified alien cells. One month later I returned -with some trepidation- for the second jab and related my tale of woe. The nurse offered that I could have been incubating another ‘bug’ at the time, although that would have been quite a coincidence of course. She outranked me in the medical department but I still wasn’t convinced. It hadn’t seemed like a “normal” disease, having encroached so rapidly; casting me as a stone into a deep pit beneath my duvet before relenting in a exponential curve until I flopped to the surface again. From there, I staggered about my house, temporarily geriatric whilst my faculties gradually eased themselves into position once more.
The catch-all “flu-like symptoms” may qualify here, but don’t so many diseases seem to start with in the same vague manner?. Fortunately, that second booster jab would spare me from a similar roller-coaster, whilst leaving me fortified against Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B – not that I should seek to test myself against any of the above. Don’t push your luck -or your vaccines.
Vaccinations may stack the odds considerably in our favour, but a mutant strain or even a poor roll of the dice could still see us undone. In spite of falling off the planet temporarily, the consequences of not being vaccinated could have been considerably worse in every respect. I don’t regret my choice.
Time, prior to the trip is an important factor. I’d gone for my jabs 5 months before my departure date, thinking I had plenty of time -but I was wrong. The attending nurse informed me that 6 months between injections against Hep. A was the norm; therefore I had to receive the condensed program across 4 weeks. So had that exacerbated my sickness? Who knows?
Care was/is still needed though -amongst the confidently vaccinated, for as I write this: there is still no vaccine available for Hep.C, for instance: although it is in development. There are also variants: D, E and G to consider in worst-case scenarios, though these depend more upon niche circumstances (an existing Hep. infection or certain geographic locales etc) in order to be considered likely threats.
Hep.G”, is (disturbingly) a relatively new discovery whose threat potential has still yet to be ascertained. At any rate, only A and B vaccinations were offered against Hepatitis in the context of my Russian trip: A as standard and B on my request, as an option.
Other standard vaccines for Russia are Tetanus (I was up to date) and Polio (I had been vaccinated at school, like most Brits). My “routine” vaccines were covered then, plus the recommended Russian additions and one of the optional choices. Others are available and usually selected depending upon the likelihood of certain types of exposure. A working trip to the wilds of Siberia will call for specialist considerations that a hotel holiday in Moscow does not, for instance.
So the nurse and I went through the additional options -a chilling selection indeed: Rabies, Cholera, and tick-borne Encephalitis. Yes, Rabies is a consideration when in Russia and a vaccination at the time would have cost me approximately £180. My life is worth considerably more of course (to me at least).
No magic wand
I was somewhat disturbed to hear from my needle-wielding attendant that the vaccine on offer was not a one-shot fix, but would only buy me extra time (perhaps an additional day!) in order to get started on a program of treatment. This would be truncated due to the vaccination, but those essentially were the two benefits. Weighing up the pros and cons; not least cost versus efficacy -and considering that I would be city-based and avoiding animals: I declined.
A similar thought process occurred when considering cholera and tick-borne encephalitis. Ticks are major consideration when hiking through woodlands etc, but not so much on Nevsky Prospect! I would have assumed the same for mosquitoes; principal vectors for Japanese Encephalitis transmission, but it seems that these pests have been reported in urban “touristy” areas during warmer months. Apparently there is an option for Whooping Cough too but this is targeted at pregnant women and those over 50. Even the common ‘Flu gets a look-in on some sites. Find more information here and here -and have a good talk with your health professional ASAP.
Anyway, I survived (so far).