Sunday, September 29, 2013

Malaria and other diseases

     Malaria is a chronic problem here.  Being in one of the coastal areas in PNG usually means malaria.  Parts of the Highlands are high enough in elevation that they don't have the disease carrying mosquitoes.  However, between climate change and strengthening of the malaria virus, more and more areas are susceptible.  The malaria around here has become resistant to most drugs, but the artemisinins still work.  When I travel I carry some malaria medication, Artemeter, with me.  That way I don't have to wait to get to an aid post or pharmacy to start treatment.  I did get sick on the English Speakers Retreat on Sunday, so started taking the anti-malarial drugs.  When I went in for a malaria test they said it wasn't worth trying to have a test since I could easily have a false negative, however, they suggested that I finish the treatment.  Two weeks ago I started feeling sick, so went in to have a malaria test.  Fortunately it came back negative.  I realize that in America I would have waited to see if I got more seriously ill before I would go to a doctor.  However, since one can get so sick so fast with Malaria, I worried about starting treatment right away. (Especially with my bosses coming).

      There is frequently someone with malaria on campus.  So far only one case has not been cured by the regular medications.  He ended up going in for daily shots for a week.  Since the medications generally work quite well, students are usually out of classes for around three days.

      Some of the other diseases around here are common with the US - e.g. diabetes, HIV/AIDS.  While others, such as TB and leprosy are less common in the US.  Certainly deaths with childbirth is more common here.  The local hospital has a program where women in their estimated last week of pregnancy can come stay at the hospital.  That way there isn't the need for long trips while in labor.  Earlier this year we had a baby born here on campus as there wasn't enough time to get her to the hospital.

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