A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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A Shot in the Arm

Whew. I thought the State Department’s travel warnings were over the top. That was before I visited the Center for Disease Control (CDC) web site.


I’m not out on the Internet looking for trouble. I went to the CDC web site to research the recommended vaccines for the places we plan to travel. I never knew there were so many exotic diseases that could kill or permanently maim you.

When I talked to my doctor and to our children’s pediatrician, both recommended that we see a travel medical specialist to discuss vaccines. There are a number of specialists in the Washington DC area, and after checking around a bit, Dani and I made an appointment at Passport Health.

As we sat through an hour consultation talking about malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, rabies and Japanese encephalitis, I kept stealing glances at Dani to make sure I wasn’t losing her. I know she hates shots, and I must admit, she remained remarkably calm.

The nurse was looking through our prospective itinerary, cross-checking it against her chart that displayed the CDC’s recommended vaccines. Each time she identified another shot we would need, she would lay on the desk another CDC fact sheet describing the benefits of the vaccine and the potential horrors that awaited anyone foolish enough to not take it.

Then she shared with us a booklet containing advice for staying healthy abroad. It included 28 specific recommendations.

A sampling:

#3: Avoid rural side trips, leave rural areas before dusk, avoid still water ponds and lagoons…

#11: …avoid salads and other uncooked vegetables, creamy desserts and food sold by street vendors.

#14: Have a plan for treatment of diarrhea… (a diarrhea kit can save a trip).

#17: Inquire about jellyfish and other poisonous sea creatures. Stay clear of shark-infested waters.

#19: Avoid sun between 10 AM and 2 PM…

#26: Poisonous snakebites are a result of handling or harassing… Scorpion bites are painful but seldom dangerous except to small children…

After reading all the warnings, I can understand why some people might prefer to get their travel experience at Epcot or by watching the Discovery Channel.

There came a moment during the consultation, though, when I knew we had jumped the shark.

The nurse was going through her mental checklist of recommended vaccines. Then she asked: “Do you plan to travel to Mississippi or the Midwest? Because if you do, there have been recent outbreaks…”

A Shot in the Arm


1 Lynn Cook { 01.30.08 at 9:26 am }

Craig, I always knew you were a good storyteller. I might have guessed you would be a beautiful writer, too! Thank you so much for creating this website and posting these blogs to bring us along on your journey. And thank you also for the privilege of knowing your thoughts and plans, hopes and dreams. I will eagerly await future postings on your wonderful adventure. Cheers to you, James family!

2 Rick James { 02.01.08 at 2:37 am }

We spent $6000 (for the four of us) and started taking needles ten months before departure. Agh… the horrific memories! Bon-apatite! It’ll be worth it for you VERY soon!

3 Craig James { 02.01.08 at 6:27 am }

Rick –

I thought Canadian health care was supposed to be less expensive! 🙂


4 Jeanne { 02.05.08 at 2:11 pm }

I am enjoying your thoughts and website! There are a few ways to look at this. We are 18 months into our multi-year open ended trip around the world and have not spent one penny on any vaccines and have done none so far . My child has never had a vaccine or shot in her life thus far , although we have done a lot of research on this topic and continue to do it, as it is not a black and white issue.

We were a little more concerned about going to rural Morocco and Turkey, but felt more confident without vaccines for all of us. We were very careful about eating and hand washing.

We like this doctors take on vaccines and travel:

YMMV…just another way to look at it. Good luck with all these hurdles!!

5 Lizzie { 02.13.08 at 9:07 am }

Hi all!
We are a uk based family of 4 who are planning a similar trip. I am enjoying your site alot. Very impressed that you are so organised and have a website – WITH ENTRIES up and running already. Anyway just wanted to say hello and let you know there are plenty more of us out there.
Happy planning
Lizzie x

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