Cowbell Doesn’t Work Against Yellow Fever

Cowbell may be the prescription for Christopher Walken, but unfortunately it doesn’t work against mosquitos, bacteria and sewage.

As I plan out further parts of my continued travel around the world, I know that, “the world” will include a great deal of travel to places that weren’t on the beaten path. I didn’t want to NOT take an opportunity to do something or go somewhere because of a possible risk of disease or infection.

And truth be told, I don’t think I would. Knowing me, I’d most likely just go off and do it and worry about the consequences later. “Take a trip into the jungle with mosquitos the size of birds? Sure thing! I’ve got some spray, and long pants, that should be fine.”


But doing some forward thinking and I’ve realized that, hmmm, maybe it would be worth it to get a vaccination or two… or three… or four. It doesn’t matter how brave you are or how much you think you can do anything you set your mind to. “Living Smart,” would be to plan ahead and get the shots beforehand to ensure I’m not throwing up or running a fever in a part of the world without adequate medical care, or worse.

So I decided to grab a few vaccinations and a quick search for clinics/hospitals that provided travel vaccinations led to Passport Health, “the largest provider of travel medicines in the world.” There were a few clinics in my area so I gave one a call, scheduled an appointment and off I went. All told I received vacations for four diseases. Here’s what I ended up with:

• Yellow Fever

This was the one I initially did the research for, as many countries suggest you get the vaccination, and some even require it in order to visit, (though usually only when you’re traveling from a country known to have a moderate level of risk.) It was highly recommended to get by the Center for Disease Control, and a number of travel bloggers also recommended it, “just in case.” Mosquitos are the bringer of this bad boy and its most often found in South America and Africa. As I had planned to start off a good amount of my international travel through Central and South America, I knew this was one I wanted. Plus the fact that it’s good for 10 years made it absolutely worth getting.

Quite a few counties in South America are on the CDC's recommendation list.

Quite a few counties in South America are on the CDC’s recommendation list.

• Tetanus

I received the initial shot(s) many years ago, though it’s been many years more since any type of booster. A cut, burn, or bite can cause infection, though when we hear the word Tetanus we most likely think of getting cut by a piece of rusty metal. Without treatment, it’s definitely serious. And while getting a tetanus infection wasn’t on my short list of worries of world travel, it was worth it for the piece of mind. When I ended up crawling under those rusty barbed wire fences… ah… it will all be worth it.

• Hepititis A

In short, the easiest way to come down with this is to eat or drink something that was prepared by someone who didn’t wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom. Yekk… And while the thought of someone preparing your dinner with unclean hands in a U.S. restaurant should be enough to freak you out, the idea of it in a developing country should give you even more pause.

Do a google search of, “Where is Hepatitis A prevalent?” and this is what you get.

Yeshh. That's a lot of orange.

Yeeshh. That’s a lot of orange.

Outside of the US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and Japan, the vaccine is recommended for most international travel.

I’m a big believer that food plays a major role in culture, and if you want to experience another country you need to try the food. I don’t want to feel uneasy about eating out, and I certainly don’t want to be sick for extended periods of time, so for me this was easy to rationalize.

• Typhoid

Another one of the, “I promise the cook washed his hands after he went to the bathroom,” diseases, Typhoid can be most often found in countries with issues related to clean water and sanitation. The World Health Organization mentions parts of southeastern Asia, India and Peru. As those were all places I plan on going, two of which I’ve already booked the ticket for, this was again, a no-brainer.

This one comes in two forms though, a shot which lasts for two years or taking a pill a day for a week, which lasts for five years. More years and fewer shots, and I went with the latter option.

In addition, while I did not get any additional vaccinations (a week’s worth of pills and a sore arm full of shots was enough for one day,) I also received prescriptions for medicine should I decide I needed it. Medicine for altitude sickness and traveler’s diarrhea as well as two months worth of malaria pills, should I visit a country of risk. With no additional charge just to have the prescriptions, it made sense to get them all during my visit so when they offered them, I took them.

In total between the initial visit, paperwork, and all vaccinations, my cost was just over $500. For me this was well worth the piece of mind to know I’d be protected against some nasty diseases and saved the hassle (and extreme unpleasantness) of potentially spending days or weeks violently sick or worse. In addition, knowing that I can visit a host of countries without fear of getting turned away because I didn’t have a Yellow fever shot, is another benefit that will allow me to travel with less to worry about.