Posted by: devonhamilton | August 19, 2010

Vaccinated: Yellow Fever

Today I had my first trip (of two) to the travel doctor. It was a long wait so I was tempted to get all my shots at once, but he recommended I do it over two trips. I needed more than I originally thought because a bunch of my childhood shots had expired, but at least those were covered.

Yellow Fever

The yellow fever vaccination cost me $150. It starts “working” ten days from now, and the good news is that its effective for ten years! The map above shows areas in Africa where yellow fever is a risk (90% of yellow fever infections  occur in Africa), but it is also a risk in regions of South America. Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required to enter Ghana. Like malaria, yellow fever is spread by mosquitoes. It has been around for 400 years! Symptoms of yellow fever are similar to the flu, and if you survive it you apparently gain lifelong immunity. However, in some cases liver damage and jaundice occurs, hence the name yellow fever. The vaccine isn’t 100% effective, so I still need to take precautions against moquitoes, which I need to do to prevent malaria as well. More information on yellow fever from the Public Health Agency of Canada, here.


Malaria is also spread by mosquitoes, but primarily from dusk until dawn. Certain precautions need to be taken to prevent mosquito bites such as: long sleeve clothing, insect repellent, and use of a mosquito net. It is endemic in over 100 countries and has been around for at least 50,000 years. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, anemia, and rigors. 85-90% of malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. There has been a lot written about the relationship between poverty and malaria, and its an interesting issue. For example, one brand of malaria pills is taken daily and it costs about $4/pill, not exactly a reliable method of prevention for a large part of the population affected in sub-Saharan Africa who may live on less than $4/day. That, however, is a different debate for a different day! You can find more information on malaria here.

In the meantime I have been prescribed Larium (aka Mefloquine). Larium was recommended to me by my travel doctor because it is taken orally once a week instead of daily, which should cut down on my medical costs (versus the $4 pill/day option). I would need to take it two weeks before I leave and for four weeks after I get back. My doctor did advise me to look it up on the Internet and let him know if I get “freaked out” and want to switch to a different brand, and it’s easy to see why when you read all the side effects. Apparently Larium can give you pretty crazy nightmares, but the stats I was given were 1 in 250 000 for people with no history of mental health issues. So if you have any experience with Larium, feel free to email me or comment on this post.

Other than that, I was prescribed Dukoral (cholera) and Cipro (traveler’s diarrhea) but have yet to fill my prescription. The travel doctor I used was Dr. Brian Aw in Richmond Hill. He was really nice so I am recommending him to any future travelers out there!


  1. Hahah! Just reading through your blog to get ideas for mine!! Don’t take Dukoral, it’s a waste of money!! and You don’t really even need cipro…it’s really expensive. Immodium does the same job and it’s much cheaper!

    • I’ve already filled my prescription! But I was lucky in that it was all covered by insurance!

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