I’ve got a date! For departure that is. The fourth week of January, 2012. Six and a half weeks from now. I have been making progress on some of the things I need to get done before I depart. I have paid my research fees- the most expensive part of the trip (over $5,000…), and I made a trip to the University of Minnesota’s Travel Clinic.
When traveling to another country, particularly a developing country, you must take certain precautions. Not drinking the tap water is a big one, unless it has been boiled or sanitized in some way. While the local people will usually be OK if they drink it, this is because, over time, they have built up immunity to whatever organisms might be in the water. This also applies to leafy vegetables, ice, and even rinsing your tooth brush under the faucet (something I often forget). While at Gombe there is no running water, so we get our water from Lake Tanganyika. It is immediately boiled and cooled and then available for whenever we need it.
In tropical or subtropical areas you must also be aware of malaria. Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes and will typically result in flu-like symptoms, though one type of the disease can be fatal. You can reduce your risk of getting malaria through preventative behaviors and medications. I will be taking a weekly anti-malarial pill throughout the course of my time at Gombe. There is also mosquito netting over our otherwise open windows and mosquito netting hanging over our beds. Gombe is not particularly risky compared to other surrounding areas but it is always good to take precautions.
Additionally, there are usually required or recommended vaccines you should get before traveling to a particular country. For Tanzania some of these vaccines include typhoid, rabies, tetanus, hepatitis A, and yellow fever. As I traveled to Tanzania two and a half years ago, I am up-to-date on most of these vaccines. However, as my typhoid shot has worn off, I do need to take an oral form of this vaccine (Typhoid is a bacterial disease that can kill nearly a third of those who contract it, if left untreated). In a few days I will pick up this vaccine, as well as my anti-malarial medication, antibiotics, and anti-diarrheal medication (traveler’s diarrhea is a very common ailment among travelers. Gross. I know). While not pleasant to think about, it is important to take precautions and be proactive. At Gombe, being hours away from the nearest city, it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry.