Today I was prescribed Lariam as a malaria prophylaxis for my trip. To be honest, I have not been impressed with the doctors in Santa Cruz and was expecting more of the same when I went in for the required “travel consultation”. For example, even though I need the doctor to give me a prescription I would not count on a local doctor to know a potentially adverse reaction from a drug they prescribe. This seemed especially clear to me after my doctor started to struggle with a hefty immunization book. He looked a little worried when he asked what part of Africa I would be in. “Near Madagascar” I replied. His eyes lit up for a moment, but then he lowered his brow and said quietly “oh, I know where that is”.
The Comoros are not in the book, but all of sub-Saharan Africa is listed as the same in terms of malaria; so Lariam is what I was prescribed. I then asked the obligatory side-effects question. He plainly said that he had taken Lariam himself and nothing happened. Then he laughed a little and said “after all, no one knows really what causes Leukemia, right?” I took my prescription and went home.
On the Internet I found more than enough anti-Lariam information to convince me that I should avoid it if possible. Amazingly, there are whole organizations and lawsuits that oppose the use of Lariam. The only good thing about Lariam seems to be that you only need to take one pill a week instead of a daily pill, and I am not sure that is such a good thing. On the other hand, Melarone was approved by the FDA two years ago and is a suitable choice with none of the known side-effects of Lariam.
Fortunately, after a few phone calls, my doctor’s assistant was happy to change my prescription. Unfortunately Lariam would have been approximately US$100, whereas Melarone is US$300 for one month’s dosage. The pharmacist, who happened to be from India, told me that if I am willing to take the obvious risks from medicine outside the US, then I might be better off just buying a few pills here to get me started and the rest when I arrive.
EDITED TO ADD: In fact, when all was said and done, taking local medications turned out to be the right thing to do since they were easily available and supported by local doctors. Malaria is considered by them as normal as a flu with fever might be seen in America. I am happy I chose not to take Lariam.
Making my lists and checking them twice. I am planning, so far, to take a digital photography kit, a towel, and a change of underwear to the Comoros. I hate to add any extra weight but I might also take a SLR. The digital photo kit includes a laptop with CDR, two sets of four rechargeable AA batteries (NiMH 1600mAh and 1800mAh), a quick-charger, and three 128MB SmartMedia cards (approximately 60 shots each at 3.3Mp — 2048×1536).
Excellent news: I have located an old Hobie 16 with a trailer in LA. Will be heading south soon to pick it up. Does anyone out there in Internet-land need a Hobie? Please feel free to contact me. Otherwise, I may soon end up owning three catamarans and I’ll be forced to actually keep one on the beach.
Also, although I do not advertise, I would like to mention that after years of foggy lenses I can see more clearly now with EK’s “Cat Crap“. I am sure that sounds like a cheesy radio promotion, but I am just happy to be fog-free and wanted to share the joy.
Flight plans for the Comoros have been set. I still have a few things to take care of for the trip such as Malaria pills. More spectacular weather has made the weekend go by quickly and I feel that before I know it I will be sitting on the black beaches of Nzwani. Some A-class sailors have been sending me information on building a custom trailer. Seems like a good time to start an A-class page. Afan reported excellent news that CERT is using his software (PHPlot) together with Snort for their network intrusion detection.
Yesterday’s wind was light but Julian and I raced the auscats out to mile buoy and back while the sun set in a huge pool of orange and purple stripes. Julian said it looked like someone was painting the sky. The boats are amazingly sensitive, so I discovered that fiddling with mast rotation in light air is a bad idea. Basically, 45 and 90 degrees of rotation are the optimum angles for upwind and downwind respectively. The slumbering seals at the buoy were less than happy to see Julian when he swung close and gave them a big toothy grin. Back on land, here’s the recipe of the day: peanut-butter cookies from allrecipes.com.
At long last, the first real news entry: The weather has been spectacular this week and the glare of the sun on the ocean makes me happy; if only we had a little more breeze. We were paging through a clothing catalog and came across a spectacular photo from Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. Have to make plans to visit in the spring. More photos finally are ready for upload. Thanks to a cousin for “gently” reminding me that she’s anxious to see more of the family photos. Vlasta, a friend of my parents and sailor from the Czech Republic, came to visit and helped me rig my new mast for the auscat. My travel plans for the Comoros are almost finalized. And I made a few updates to the profile page.