Don’t forget the insect repellent!

I recently went on a holiday to a fantastic country most of you probably haven’t heard of yet: Belize. Well, maybe you know it under its former name, British Honduras – Belize used to be part of the British Empire, hence the official language is English. Which makes travelling a bit easier once you get used to the accent…

Belize certainly is a beautiful country, and since it’s so small you can go from the beautiful beaches on the coast to the depth of the jungle in less than six hours. This gives the country a variety that is just incredible! Have a look at this video to give you an idea:

However, as Belize has a tropical climate (it’s located between Mexico and Guatemala in Central America), one has to be aware of potentially lethal tropical diseases. I consider myself to be a usually well-prepared traveller, but this time I somehow slipped up – I was sure I’d read somewhere that malaria wasn’t present in Belize, so I didn’t take any prophylaxis or even used insect repellent while I was there – it’s so sticky, like suncream! Ugh! At least with suncream I’ve become really thorough, but insect repellent… Well, I’ve now learnt my lesson!

As most of you know, malaria is transmitted by mosquitos. Beautiful creatures, if you have a closer look at them:

Spike Walker, Wellcome Images

However, my look must’ve been a bit too close: three days before the end of my holiday, I came down with a fever. And what a fever! One night I seriously thought someone had emptied an entire bucket of water onto my bed as it was literally dripping with sweat. Well, I’ll spare you any further details, but let me tell you this: the fever came back once a week for a month and a half after I returned home. My GP referred me to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases (HTD), who tested me for all sorts of diseases, including malaria. They were so sure that that’s what it was, I had four tests done – all of them negative…

In the end, as good and thorough as they were, they never found out what it was, and now it’s finally gone. But one thing is certain: for my next holiday, I will 1) go to the HTD before I leave to get all my vaccinations, 2) take malaria prophylaxis while I’m travelling, and 3) use that insect repellent, as annoying and sticky as it might be!

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3 Responses to Don’t forget the insect repellent!

  1. Jo Brodie says:

    A lovely post – I really like the story and use of humour. You’ve set the scene very well and as a reader I felt immediately engaged. Maybe a little more science detail would be good though (eg malarial parasites and “how they work” once inside the body, also how anti-malarials work).

    Also what is the context of the picture? I don’t think this matters too much though because the picture works well in your post anyway, but maybe something like “this picture was one of X finalists in a competition…”

    Anyway I’m glad you recovered from the fever 🙂
    Best wishes,

  2. naturewide says:

    Hi Jo,

    Thanks for your nice feedback! You’re right, if time hadn’t been a factor I definitely would’ve included more science background!
    I also would’ve credited the picture better too, but when we were writing our posts I thought the only thing that mattered was that we wrote something about the picture, not necessarily the competition itself, so I completely forgot about that…
    Anyway, thanks again!

  3. Pingback: The future of Imperial Science Blogging | Blogging the PhD

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