Beware the Travellers’ Health Book! Tropical disease diary – Uganda travel health advice from the muzungu
Or … “How not to do it”
This month I have been bitten by Mango Flies and a spider. I have had Malaria and Scabies, a fungal infection and an allergic reaction… what have you been doing, you may ask?
The silly Muzungu thought she would try and save money by consulting her Travellers Health book for Uganda travel health advice. “Itching, particularly bad at night” was found in the Scabies section of the book. I’d been itching like crazy, two evenings in a row and it felt like the surface of my skin was crawling alive. The next morning, I walked down to the local pharmacist and then to the local clinic for a diagnosis.
I was trying to go local. I like supporting local businesses and, after all, isn’t a Ugandan more likely to know what afflicts somebody who lives in Uganda? So went the thinking…
Three diagnoses plus a concoction of antihistamines, fungicide treatment, and other treatments later and I was still itching like crazy.
It wasn’t Scabies.
Nor had I been suffering from Mango Fly bites.
I thought it highly unlikely that I could possibly have Malaria a third time in six months. After all, Dr Stockley tells us “you can’t get Malaria in Kampala.”
When I told him that I thought I’d caught Malaria in Ggaba, he said: “Yes, well that’s Ggaba, that’s not Kampala!”
I always err on the side of caution, so when I got sick I decided I better have one more Malaria test. At the local clinic, I was surprised to hear I had the third positive result in four months, although I hear positive results are not that easy to get. (Even if you do have Malaria, it often hides in your organs and doesn’t show up in the test).
I’d been a bit suspicious of said clinic. They first tried to sell me a cream that was almost out of date. Obviously disappointed that I didn’t want to buy that, the clinic then tried to sell me something else for a condition that never even got a mention during the consultation!
I won’t be going there again, especially when I later had a conclusive result from Kololo Hospital that proved I could not possibly have had Malaria when I had my test two days previously at the local pharmacy. In fact, a tropical medicine doctor friend says the antigen test for malaria shows I can’t have had it in the last six months…
And what was it that I had in the end?
Nothing tropical, only a case of Shingles, finally diagnosed by the Surgery. A British nurse friend had suggested I might have Shingles, but the two local clinics refuted that suggestion. Shingles is brought on by stress. It’s not contagious, but if you have had chickenpox as a child, you risk developing it later in life.
In my effort to save money, I’d actually wasted money by taking medications for something that I didn’t even have. I had prolonged my illness.
Learn from the muzungu’s experience. When you feel ill, go to the best doctor you can afford – straightaway (and ditch the Travellers Health book!)