We got our yellow shot cards today. My hubby wasn’t that thrilled since he’s had one since he was a kid growing up in the military. But it was my first International Certificate of Vaccination…or Certificat International de Vaccination since it’s also printed in French. Easy to identify the Latin roots in that phrase. Makes you sound like a pet in any language. We also got immunizations for typhoid, hep A and hep B, as well as the first month’s worth of malaria pills. Happily the baby didn’t have to get any shots since he’s current on his childhood immunizations and too little for the other ones. When he hits 22 pounds he can start on ¼ of a tablet for malaria.

The State Department gives you two types of malaria preventative to choose from: Doxycyline and Mefloquine. Doxycycline has to be taken every day and will make you sensitive to the sun…obviously not a good choice for Central America. Although I am curious…are there ANY countries where you’d need malaria pills that aren’t sun drenched? Just a thought. It also renders birth control pills ineffective. So not the best for family planning. And it cannot be taken by children under the age of eight as it will permanently stain their teeth for some reason.

Mefloquine on the other hand is the one with all the great side effects. You only have to take it once a week. But you may get headaches, nausea, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, vivid dreams and visual disturbances. Sounds kind of like peyote. On rare occasions, you could also experience seizures, depression and psychosis, which I’m sure are excellent factors in diplomacy. I would say the cure is worse than the disease if malaria didn’t stay in your system for so long.

And malaria itself is pretty nasty. Here’s a nice summary of it that I found online:

Malaria, caused by parasites introduced by the bite of Anopheles mosquito females who have fed on an infected victim, manifests itself in high fevers, chills and sweating, headache and muscle ache.

The parasites attack the liver and red blood cells, where it reproduces and goes through a number of developmental stages, ending with the eventual explosion of the red blood cells they inhabit, thereby flooding the bloodstream with parasites–causing the chills-and-fever episodes. The chills-and-fever episodes repeat themselves at intervals of 48 to 72 hours, depending on which of several strains of malarial parasites is responsible. The danger of malaria depends to a large extent on which type of parasite is being transmitted.

The strain most dangerous is falciparum, and it is showing disturbing signs of becoming resistant to chloroquinine, the treatment drug of choice. Because all types of malaria present with the same original symptoms, early diagnosis and treatment is vital in suppressing the parasite in the event that it is falciparum–because the chill-and-fever symptoms can escalate quite rapidly into the life-threatening enlargement of the spleen, severe anemia, renal failure, seizures and coma. The disease can be fatal. It is possible for the symptoms to subside while parasites have been known to remain in the liver for up to 4 years, becoming active again and causing a relapse of malaria.

So, in case you’re wondering, I chose Mefloquine. Bring on the gin and tonics!! And don’t forget the lime.