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March 06, 2005

Vaccinations for Thailand

I've been getting a lot of questions about vaccine prep for a visit to Thailand, particularly when you don't know what the conditions will be like. I'd like to assure everyone that I'm in good health and am up-to-date. I met with a doctor specializing in traveller's health, and consulted the CDC website.

The CDC recommends Hepatitis A+B vaccines, typhoid, boosters for tetanus-diphtheria and measles, adult polio, rabies if you'll be spending any time with animals, and Japanese encephailits if you'll be in a rural area for 4 weeks or more. As well as anti-malarials for certain areas. There is no risk of yellow fever, and the Cholera vaccine was so spotty they don't even give it any more. Meningococcal (bacterial meningitis), while a concern in parts of Africa and the Philippines, is not now a concern in Thailand. I did take a pass on both the rabies and the JapE, both of which my doctor said wouldn't be necessary. JapE potentially can cause anaphylaxis a week after the shot for an absolutely miniscule percentage of people who take it, but I didn't feel like messing around with that.

For more info on health in Thailand and links for those of you who are anti-vaccine due to potential mercury poisoning, please click continued below.

There is talk about their worries of an avian flu pandemic in Asia, and say to make sure chicken (etc.) is cooked through, and to avoid the bird areas in the markets. This is more of a concern in the very northern part of the country, like Chiang Mai. I'm not too concerned about being exposed. (There's a great New Yorker article on this in their 28Feb05 issue by Michael Specter. The New Yorker is too clever to let us read his story for free, though The Drudge Report does a good job of condensing only the most alarming bits. Please read the original, longer story, it's pretty well done.)

I picked up an expensive course of Malarone (atovaquone/proguanil), although I believe I'm far enough from the Burma border that I don't even need it anyway. I packed some nasty bug juice (deet) too. I've even had a pneumonia shot and I wangled a flu shot last fall during all that nonsense. So I really feel like I'm covered.

Some links on thimerosol (50% mercury) preserving agent in vaccines, from the San Francisco Examiner and SafeMinds.org.

An 8Feb05 LA Times article by Myron Levin on a 1991 Merck memo warning about mercury in shots is no longer online for free. It is, however, reprinted here.The memo apparently warned that infants who get their vaccines on time are exposed to 87 times the level of mercury recommended for adults eating fish.

I haven't studied this issue in the least (beyond what's here), so I can't vouch for the accuracy or origin of the material — though I will say the LAT is pretty well known for digging up pharmaceutical dirt on dangerous drugs.

Posted by sedda at March 6, 2005 04:03 PM