Tag Archive for 'africa'

Preventing Malaria: Medications

Areas affected by malaria.

If you’re planning a trip to Africa, South/Central America, or Asia, malaria is a legitimate concern.  Malaria is a very serious parasitic infection that kills about 1 million people annually and is transmitted by mosquitoes.  However, there is good news. There are numerous ways to lower the chances of ever contracting malaria and even if you do, it is highly treatable.

One of the ways to mitigate the risk of contracting malaria is by taking a chemoprophylaxis, or antimalarial drug.  Below is a list of some common drugs prescribed for travel to areas of the world with malaria risks:

Lariam (Mefloquine) by Roche

  • Weekly tablet
  • Cheaper than Malarone (fewer pills to buy)
  • While extremely rare, a study reported higher adverse neuropsychiatric events (Dark Side of Lariam)
  • Have to start taking it 4-6 weeks prior to departure + 2 weeks after
  • Comprehensive Lariam Side Effects

Doxycyclin (general antibiotic)

  • Side effects that can be mitigated
  • Cheap, Generic
  • Daily tablet
  • Likely to sunburn faster
  • Nausea
  • Can lead to yeast infections

Malarone (atovaquone and proguanil hydrochloride) by GlaxoSmithKline

  • Causal prophylaxis
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and headache can occur
  • Can make you sick enough to discontinue use
  • Expensive

Chloroquine (Aralen) (can be found generically)

  • Resistance in parts of the world (map)
  • May worsen psoriasis

When it comes to effectiveness, they are all about equal.  However, daily pills put greater responsibility on the user to take it at the same time every day, otherwise the effectiveness decreases.  To make a proper choice for your needs, visit your local travel clinic and doctor.

This site also has lots of good info.

Look for part 2 of malaria prevention coming later this week!

This is Africa: Headlamp Surgery

Practicing medicine in the jungles of Africa requires a certain flexibility that is hard to imagine here in the U.S. or western Europe.  However, thanks to the existence of youtube, we can see the challenges that face doctors in remote places all over the world.

This particular video brings back memories of the surgical marathon that went on in Maboye, Cameroon last summer. Dr. Bwelle slept about 8 hours for an entire 48 hour period and at one point the generator went out mid-operation.  Dr. Bwelle had us all turn our headlamps on to light the surgical field and on we continued as the generator was repaired.  That’s the way it goes in Africa.

Drexel University Medical Team Headed to Africa with Ascovime

For the third year in a row, a team of students from Drexel University College of Medicine are embarking on volunteer mission with Ascovime to Cameroon. This summer they will work with humanitarian leader Dr. Georges Bwelle, who is a Cameroonian surgeon, to give free health care to over 2,000 patients in four rural villages in the jungles of Cameroon. Find out more about what they will be doing.

So far, the eight-member team has raised over $1000 in a few short weeks and has been tirelessly collecting supplies and medications from hospitals in the Philadelphia area. On April 17th, the volunteers will be holding an Art for Health fundraiser hosted by the Waterworks restaurant from 4-8pm. If you can, show up and make a donation to the great cause – overall, the team is shooting for a goal of $10,000 in donations before they leave for Cameroon in June.

If you can’t make it to this particular fundraiser, keep your eyes’ peeled or RSS feeds open for more events to come. In early May, likely the 7th, a Beef n’ Beer event is scheduled at a sports bar in Philadelphia so be on the lookout.

Best of luck to the fine medical students and humanitarians!

Show your support for Ascovime on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

The Latest African Epidemic: World Cup Fever

I don’t know how to put this, but the World Cup is kind of a big deal.  Even in the United States, perhaps as a result of hosting the 1994 World Cup, the popularity is rising, whereas in the rest of the world, it’s all-consuming.

This is Eto'o. More popular in Cameroon than God or Allah.

Cameroon is a huge soccer country.  Where ever there is a flat rectangular area, or just a flat area for that matter, children or adults have erected makeshift goals.  Young and old can be seen playing in the morning, at lunch, after school, and also when they’re supposed to be at work.  If you want to come to Cameroon, but you’re worried about not knowing French, well, learn to play soccer instead.  The most widely used language in the world is football (soccer).

Luxurious nets at the American School of Yaounde

Continue reading ‘The Latest African Epidemic: World Cup Fever’

More Than Just the Same Name

Each morning when Andre, Kevin, Kevin, and I drive to the American School together from Bastos (district of Cameroon), we seem to have a similar recurring conversation: why is Africa in the state it is?  But first, what is Africa?

Typical conversations focus on the negatives as both Kevin and Andre are frustrated with privileged students at the American School of Yaounde who feel they are entitled.  Corruption in the country is rampant, well at least more obvious than in the United States. Allow me to give an example:  There is ongoing construction to build another building next to our apartment in Bastos.  During the week, there is little activity, but once Friday evening rolls around, suddenly a concrete mixer and 30 workers show up.  They “work” through the night, pouring concrete about half the time, drinking and yelling the other half.  It’s loud, and it’s literally right outside our windows. What to do?  Typically in the U.S. you would call the police and they would show up and hand out noise violations.  Unfortunately the police are useless here, often taking bribes (I’ve only seen one police car here the whole time anyway).  So whoever is running the construction operation has most likely paid off the police for the noise reason and for the fact that he probably doesn’t have a permit to be working on the weekends (why wouldn’t he work during the week?).

Public school in Maboye, Cameroon

Anyway, our theories about the existence of entitled students and corrupt business practices usually finds its way toward culture and education, both of which seem to go hand in hand.  Among world culture, I have found it commonplace to always complain about problems but never to do anything to solve them, i.e. Monday morning quarterbacks in the U.S.  Kevin the school counselor, and Andre the teacher have taken a different approaches.

Continue reading ‘More Than Just the Same Name’

Bidets in Cameroon, You Can’t Be Serious

Yes, I am serious, very much so.  Although I can’t say I’ve used one yet, and it’s been over a week.

Didn't expect my first bidet to be in Africa...

Upon our return from Maboye, the rural village of the first medical mission, arranged for me to stay somewhere other than at his home.  The switch certainly wasn’t per my request but I’m very happy at the new apartment.  Dr. Bwelle traded me to Monsieur Andre Orban, who is a teacher at the American School of Yaounde and was also a member of the medical volunteer team dispatched to Maboye the first weekend.  Mr. Orban is older Belgian man who speaks Flemish, French, and English all at a very high level.  He’s spent time working for Exxon Mobil all across the world, Belgium, South Africa, Nigeria, and Cameroon.  Now he’s retired and is teaching for pleasure, although at the end of the school year the teachers are as fed up with the lackadaisical students as the students are with attending class.

Continue reading ‘Bidets in Cameroon, You Can’t Be Serious’

Jungle Travel

We left Yaounde with two vehicles, a small European Toyota Corolla and a large 20 passenger Toyota van. All of the luggage on most vans and buses in Cameroon is placed on a roof rack as you can see from the picture on the previous blog post.

Messeman, Zenge, and a little of Dr. Bwelle in the van

So much has happened in the first couple days that I will attempt to capture the few that are most interesting.

There were several reasons I ventured to Africa, one of which was for the sheer sense of adventure. My first full day provided just that, but I can’t even describe the half of it. I left you last as we left Yaounde on the road toward Douala. From that main paved road, we turned off onto a dirt road, more of a path than a road. It was the quintessential African jungle road that anyone would love to take their Land Rover on.

Continue reading ‘Jungle Travel’

Urban Africa

Our Toyota Van

After dinner on Thursday, I bathed. This is when it hit me that I was in Africa. There was no running water in Yaounde today. George and Zenge had set out buckets outside to collect the rainwater off the roof and this was the water used to bathe. Oh yeah, there are no sinks either.

So I poured cold water on myself with a small pitcher, which was actually quite refreshing. Then I did my best to lather myself up while standing. More on the bathroom: it’s actually a toilet/shower all in one. Imagine the footprint of a square shower that doesn’t have a bathtub, and that is approximately the size of the whole bathroom, maybe George’s was a little bigger. The toilet is on one side and the shower is typically on the opposite corner (it normally works) and the floor just drains. Pretty efficient use of floor space if you ask me.

Also, water that comes out of the drain can’t be used to brush your teeth, only bottled water.

I awoke several times in the middle of the night hearing the tap tap tapping of little mouse feet on the tile floor. In the morning, breakfast was awaiting me, Zenge, and Messeman; George had left early in the morning to go to the hospital where he works. We had a baguette with mayonnaise and tea with milk in it.

Continue reading ‘Urban Africa’

Bonjour from Yaounde, Cameroon!

May 27th, 2010

This place is absolutely nuts! Crazy drivers, a different language, and hot weather.

On Wednesday at 12:55pm (EST) I left Burlington, Vermont and on Thursday I have arrived in Yaounde, Cameroon at 7:40pm (WAT). I arrived in the dark so I didn’t have much of an introduction.

I suppose the realization that I was going to Africa hit me when I was in line boarding the plane from Zurich to Douala and then Yaounde. That’s when I realize that for the first time in my life, I was going to be in the minority. At first I must admit that I was a little nervous, but eventually I got my head around it and have no problem with it. It truly was a shock though – when I think about it, the Czech Republic is more white than Vermont, and Vermont is one of the whitest in the union with something close to 98% Caucasian.

Flying from Europe across the Mediterranean Sea and then across the Sahara desert was quite amazing. The pictures are a bird’s eye view of the Algerian Sahara, Niger’s desert to grassland transition, and finally, the complete forestation of Nigeria and Cameroon. Honestly when we were landing first in Douala, Cameroon, I thought we were touching down in the middle of the Amazon. I sat on the left side of the plane so I had no view of the metropolitan city that holds several million people, just a glimpse of riverside shacks next to the runway.

Continue reading ‘Bonjour from Yaounde, Cameroon!’

I’m Going To Africa

By virtue of the title of this post, I’m sure you’ve gathered that I’m going to Africa.  An opportunity to volunteer on a medical mission with a Cameroonian General Surgeon into the African jungle fell into my lap and I took it. The University of Vermont helped pay for the airfare, Dr. Georges Bwelle (the surgeon) will host me, and my family will be taking care of the other expenses. All of that is great but this trip is an opportunity to do a lot more, and this is where I need everyone’s help.

Continue reading ‘I’m Going To Africa’