April 14th, 2013 · Comments Off · Uncategorized
If you have been trying to get immunized against typhoid fever in the past month or so, I know it has been a struggle. Many travel clinics are out of both the injectable typhoid vaccine – Typhim Vi or Typherix, and the oral vaccine – Vivotif. This situation started several months ago when there was a “recall” on Sanofi’s Typhim Vi, over concerns that there wasn’t enough antigen in it … it might not be as effective as it should be. I assume that this caused a “run” on Crucell’s Vivotif, and they became unable to keep up with demand.
Typhoid fever is caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi, which is contracted through contaminated food and/or water, or by being served lunch by less than hygienic food handlers. For travellers, it is most commonly encountered on the Indian subcontinent … India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. It is much more common in VFRs, that is, those travelling to “visit friends & relatives”. This category of travellers tends to stay for longer periods of time in more rural settings, live with local people, take more young children with them, and often tend to bypass pretravel vaccinations and counselling. Having said that, longer term, rural and budget travellers of any origin may be at risk.
Many expatriates or long term residents of lesser developed countries are diagnosed with typhoid fever. Considering that the vaccines are both only about 70% effective, it is possible that they may be getting infected with typhoid. More likely, however, is that they are diagnosed on speculation, or on the basis of old, inaccurate tests. Malaria is similarly overdiagnosed. Having said that, I don’t discourage my long term volunteers from accepting treatment for malaria, or typhoid, or both if the local doctor suggests that that is what they have.
In my humble opinion, typhoid vaccine is one of the more over-recommended vaccines. People going on cruises, luxury safaris and guided tours to many tropical destinations probably are at minimal risk. That is not to say that there is no risk, but when combined with a bit of “Boil it, bottle it, peel it, cook it, wash your hands, or forget it”, the risk is pretty low. I often offer such travellers a lovely dinner at the restaurant of their choice should they return with typhoid …that is, after it is treated with antibiotics.
Typhim Vi, the injectable vaccine, may be given to children over the age of two. Its protection lasts for 3 years, according to Canada, and only 2 years in the US. Its advantage is that once it’s in the arm, it’s done. Vivotif, the oral vaccine, consists of 4 capsules taken over 7 days,which must be kept refrigerated and taken on an empty stomach. Not rocket science, but a few people screw up. It is recommeded for kids over the age of six, and is protective for 5-7 years. So each vaccine has its pros and cons.
There has also been a shortage or absence of rabies vaccine, which is mainly warranted for longer term travellers to countries where the appropriate rabies vaccine in the event of a dog (or other furry animal) bite might not be available. This shortage is now coming to an end to the best of my knowledge.
The shortages of vaccines mirrors the increasing number of shortages of other important pharmaceutical products.
Tags:typhim vi·typhoid vaccines·vaccine shortages·vivotif
March 2nd, 2013 · Comments Off · Uncategorized
When reading my morning Globe and Mail (Canada’s leading newspaper), I usually check the obituaries first. There, I might discover the recent deaths of my patients, friends and colleagues. In addition, I am interested in the lives lived by others, even if I didn’t have a personal connection with them.
Today, I came across the obituary of John Driftmier, a 30 year old Canadian documentary film maker , who died tragically in a plane crash in Kenya earlier this week. The subject of the documentary he was working on? Dangerous flights.
Most people leave their travel clinics with an armful or two of shots against infectious diseases such as hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever, meningitis, yellow fever and more. These are usually quite costly, and the infections they protect you against can be quite rare and unlikely in most travellers. On the other hand, I’ll bet that most of you are not made aware of the greatest risk to your life when you are abroad - namely accidents. In particular, road accidents are the most common cause of death amongst travellers. That includes cars,buses, motorbikes and even pedestrians. A British couple biking across Asia was recently killed by a truck, and its driver, in Thailand. A small plane carrying tourists over Everest went down killing 19 last September. A patient of mine recently had his arm mangled by a shark in Bora Bora.
In my travels over the past forty years, I have frequently ridden on those unsafe buses – the Peruvian Andes and the tro-tros of Ghana immediately come to mind. I have played Russian roulette while attempting to cross the streeets of Kathmandu. And I have flown in missionary planes in Kenya, ten seaters in Guatemala and the aforementioned flight over Everest. I thank my lucky stars that I am still here to write about it! Let me not forget the ferry to Zanzibar, tropical ferries being another mode of transportation that makes my hair stand on end.
Why are traffic accidents the number one cause of death in travellers? (this does not inlude heart attacks and stroke) To make a long story short, and at the risk of generalising and insulting some people:
- the roads stink
- the vehicles stink
- the drivers stink
Should we be advising our travelling patients to avoid all of these risky forms of travel on their adventures? Well that is one approach, but it is unlikely to deter most dangerous travel. More often than not, an unsafe bus, a small airplane or a ferry without lifejackets is the only way to get from point A to point B, assuming you really want to or need to get to point B.
You might want to glance elsewhere in my website to read some of my suggestions for staying safe while you travel. Some of the key points include:
- avoid driving at night, especially in rural areas
- at least look for a seatbelt when you enter a vehicle
- don’t get on a motorbike, and at least wear a helmet if you do
- look both ways, at least twice, before trying to cross the street
- reconsider whether you really want to take that small plane or ferry to the middle of nowhere
- say a prayer before getting on that small plane or ferry
- stay sober, and avoid getting into vehicles with people who are not
Another excellent source of information is the CATMAT (Committee to Advise on Tropical Medicine and Travel) document on the PHAC website.
This posting is not meant to minimize the importance of avoiding infectious diseases. After all, who wants dengue and dysentery. But at least be aware of the non-infectious risks that await you when you venture abroad, and think twice before you do anything there that you wouldn’t do back home.
Tags:ACCIDENTS·driftmier·travel safety·wise blog
January 27th, 2013 · Comments Off · Uncategorized
Welcome to 2013. I am a bit slow in writing, as I have been quite busy so far this year.
Vaccine shortages are topical, and sometimes tropical … and perennial, like some allergies … all year round.
A month or two ago there was a recall on single dose TYPHIM Vi, the killed, injectable typhoid vaccine. This vaccine provides about 70% protection for about 3 years. In the wake of that, travel clinics flocked to VIVOTIF, the live, oral vaccine which confers the same degree of protection, but for up to 7 years. Unfortunately, this vaccine involves swallowing capsules, 4 of them on alternate days, and is not licensed for kids under 6, or those who can’t swallow capsules!
With the Typhim Vi shortage, the “oral typhoid vaccine company” became a bit overwhelmed, which led to a shortage of their oral vaccine. Right now, it is touch and go with both typhoid vaccines. The people who suffer are those at the highest risk of contracting typhoid fever, namely, the VFRs (visiting friends and relatives) in places like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and The Philippines. Much of the typhoid vaccine is “sucked up”, in my humble opinion, by travellers whose itinerary and style of travel puts them at very little risk of the infection. Last week I saw a young lady who had returned from India with typhoid fever. She had not considered taking any vaccine. They only work if you take it … if you can get it!
On another infectious note, Cuba has been reporting cases of cholera once again. As a reminder, cholera is a bacterial infection passed through food and water. It causes a severely dehydrating illness, which may prove fatal in the absence of proper treatment, namely rehydration. Allegedly, this most recent infection originated at the ballpark in Havana, the Estadio Latinamericano!
A year ago almost to the day I was at that same stadium with my son, Michael. We sat right behind home plate for 3 bucks. The game was much more exciting than our Blue Jays. And in restrospect, I am glad I stuck to the peanuts and Coke.
If you are travelling to Cuba, I would always suggest you visit Havana, and if you have the time, take in a ball game. But beware of the food and water. If you insist on eating the local food at the park, consider some pre-emptive Dukoral, a mediocre vaccine against E. coli, the usual cause of tourista, but in fact much more effective against cholera. On second thought, stick to the nuts!
Tags:cholera·havana dukoral·typhim vi·typhoid vaccine shortage
December 23rd, 2012 · Comments Off · Uncategorized
Firstly, let me wish anyone and everyone who reads this blog and visits my website and my clinic a happy holiday and a healthy new year. While I have not always been punctual with a new post every week, I have done my best to keep coming up with some topical posts. Some of my staff actually thought that they had missed Prime Minister Harper’s office visit last month!
Many travel medicine memories stand out in my mind from the past year, including, but not limited to:
- my trip to Havana and Vinales with my son Michael in January
- my trip to Poland with my daughter Carrie and cousin Susan in October
- living vicariously through the travels of a few thousand patients in my office
- admiring the efforts of countless humanitarian volunteers from all walks of life, going to a myriad of destinations
- the work of CUSO International, for whom I am the medical advisor
- the tragic death of Shriya Shah-Klorfine on Mount Everest
- the endless flow of travellers going to other high altitude destinations, such as Machu Picchu and Mount Kilimanjaro
- a two year old girl who returned from Jamaica with cutaneous larva migrans – an interesting rash
- recurrent shortages of vaccines including rabies and typhoid vaccine
- about a half dozen “dogbite” calls from the middle of nowhere
- quite a few “cramps and diarrhea” calls
- the reminder that not all illness that occurs during and after travel is related to travel
- the wonder of Skype when trying to sort out people’s medical problems from afar
- Malarone going “generic” at the end of the year
- the continuing feeling that I/we are overimmunizing those who need it least and underimmunizing those who need it most
- the tragic death of humanitarian Susan Wells in Tanzania less than a month ago
- the numerous people who travel to exotic locations in spite of their complex medical problems
- those who celebrate their “big birthdays” with trips of a lifetime
- the contribution that the movie The Bucket List has made to international travel
- the great stress of “tight connections”, such as mine between Krakow, Frankfurt and Toronto
- the option to do it all on your iPad
- the amount of business travellers enabling all of the outsourcing in India
- and last but not least, the great enjoyment and satisfaction I get from helping people understand and minimize the risks of travel
Happy New Year
November 11th, 2012 · Comments Off · Uncategorized
A slightly plump, though less-so than before (see previous post), silver-haired and somewhat green around the gills gentleman walked slowly into my office.
“How was India, Mr. Prime Minister? I enjoyed the picture of you playing cricket over there. I assume you have returned unscathed, though something tells me I am mistaken.”
“India went fine, a piece of cake. It was The Philippines that got to me I think. You never told me I still had to be careful with my food and water there.”
“Woops, your honour. In fact I don’t think you even mentioned The Philippines, though if you had, I would have advised the exact same precautions. In any case, whattya got?”
“Well doc, it hit me on the plane home two days ago. All of a sudden, chills, shakes, aches and pains, and then cramps in my lower tummy. And then, the diarrhea – I swear, every ten minutes all the way home. Never seen anything like it. We almost had to touch down in Newfoundland.”
“Did you have a fever, sir? Did you take the Cipro I prescribed you for such situations?”
“No time to check for a fever. Too busy running down the aisle to the can. But I felt hot. And no, one of my aides put out a call for Cipro on day three in India, and I gave him mine!”
“And I hate to get gross, Mr. Harper, but did you notice any blood or pus or mucous in your stools?”
“Ya know, those airline bathrooms aren’t exactly well lit, and I really wasn’t in the mood to lean over and look, doctor. Whoa boy, hear comes another cramp. Is there a washroom in your office?”
“It’s down the hall, Mr. Harper. Saves on toilet paper and plumber’s fees. While you’re at it down there, how ’bout putting some stool samples in these two different bottles. We can send them off to the lab to look for parasites, which I doubt you have, or for bacteria, which I’m pretty certain you do.”
A slightly relieved looking Harper returned to my office five minutes later.
“That wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, Doctor Mark.”
“I knew you could do it, Mr. PM. So, here’s the scoop on your poop. Common things being common, you’ve picked up an intestinal bacteria during your ITM (International Trade Mission). As you didn’t have to pay for it, we could call it a form of free trade! Another joke! It’ll take two days minimum to get a result on your stool culture – the one looking for bacteria. The common bacteria we see in returning travellers are E. coli (not the uncooked hamburger one), salmonella, shigella and campylobacter. My guess is that you picked up the last one. Here’s another script, let’s make it for Zithromax – once a day for three days. Along with that, I would drink lots of clear fluids – Gatorade, soup with salt, tea with sugar.
“You look like a milk kind of guy. Well I would skip it for the next several days as sometimes people get some lactose intolerance along with their traveller’s diarrhea. You can use an Imodium if you want, as long as you don’t see any blood in your stools, now that you have well-lit washrooms. Some people think Imodium is bad … keeps the bad stuff inside you. Whatever you do, don’t use much of it or you won’t shit again til the canal freezes over. Probiotics might help. You can find them over the counter. And don’t be surprised if it takes a little while for your bowels to return to the way they were before your ITM. And don’t forget, wash your hands and use your own towels. Wouldn’t want this to spread through Parliament Hill. I’ll call you as soon as I get your stool results. So might Public Health. Would you like me to Tweet you?”
“Just call my home and leave a message, and thanks for seeing me so quickly, Mark. I still really like your office!”
Tags:India·philippines·stepehn harper·TRAVELLER'S DIARRHEA·wise
November 3rd, 2012 · Comments Off · Uncategorized
A slightly plump and silver-haired gentleman with glasses rose from the corner of my waiting room and followed me into my office.
“This is quite an interesting office you have, Doctor Wise. Looks like you have been everywhere. Oh, there’s a picture of Mother Teresa on your wall. Did you meet her? And Romeo D’Allaire. Sir Edmund. And who is that guy with Muhammed Ali. Oh, that’s you with a full head of hair!”
“Yes Mister Prime Minister, that’s me and Ali, and yes I’ve been around, but let’s talk about your trip to India. When are you going? Whereabouts in India? For how long? Backpacking? Going to an ashram? Visiting friends and relatives? International trade mission? And call me Mark.”
“You got it, Doctor, I mean Mark. ITM as we call it in Ottawa. Probably Delhi, the Taj Majal which I hear is breathtaking, and then down to Bangalore, to figure out my Bell bills …that’s a joke, Mark. Only there for five or six days. Back pack … ya right!”"
“Well I assume you’re staying first class, or even better. The best the taxpayer can afford, eh Mr. Prime Minister!”
“That’s right Mark. Can’t negotiate uranium deals if I have Delhi Belly, or would that be Bangalore Bombs?”
“OK. Let’s get down to business. You are NOT at the same risk of illness as would be the Indian family going to visit their loved ones for six weeks in a small village. We call those travellers VFRs – they are going to visit their friends and relatives. They are the ones I really worry about. Even the Eat Love and Pray gang is riskier than you. But, I would still treat you the same. So, here is my Indian advice.
“Don’t trust the food, don’t trust the water. Boil it, bottle it, peel it, cook it …or forget it! My guess is that you are taking a few zillion bottles of Canadian water with you. Don’t be embarassed, many of my Indian patients do too. You say your hotel has 10 stars? I say that is not enough. You are only as good as the last person who handled your food.”
“What if my hosts try and give me a salad, or something else uncooked?”
“Joke, and say “I have a Canadian stomach”, and then turn the conversation to something else, say cricket!”
“And when you get the runs, don’t screw around. Traveller’s Diarrhea is most often a bacterial infection. Imodium, Pepto Bismol, probiotics ….they’re all nice. But if I were PM, I would quickly start an antibiotic like Cipro or Zithromax, even if just for a day or two. It’ll probably get you better the same day.”
“What about this Dulcolax stuff?”
“That’s Dukoral, Mr. Prime Minister, but you’re not the first one to make that mistake! Well, it’s not a bad thing, gives you protection against E. coli …not the one out in Alberta, a different E. coli. Overall, it gives you about 30-40% protection against all forms of diarrhea. Not bad. Not great. While you’re less likely to get diarrhea than that Indian family, the impact on a five day ITM might be substantial. Do you have a drug plan? Still have a decent pension?Just kidding! If so, it doesn’t usually have much in the way of side effects, and I agree, it’s tough to negotiate free trade deals when you’re on the can!”
“Gotcha, Mark. Now how ’bout malaria? And what’s this dengue thing? I hear some Bollywood legend died of it last week.”
“Well Your Honour, I mean Mister Prime Minister. Both are mosquito-borne infections, and both can make you sick as a dog – fever, headache, aches and pains, chills, shakes … Dengue probably wouldn’t kill you, but malaria, if it went undiagnosed in the midst of a massive flu outbreak in the nation’s capitol, could. By the way, hope the canal freezes over this winter. Gonna be a long winter with no Leafs or Sens.
So, use some insect repellent when you’re out during the day. That’s when the dengue mosquito bites. You’re a bit pale, so you might want to put on some sunscreen first, and then your insect repellent. The best ones contain DEET. DEET is not bad for the environment or Lauren’s skin. But keep it off your BlackBerry and sunglasses!”
“Sure am glad I just have to worry about Chinese oil takeovers and not the NHL. By the way, what about an antimalarial pill? I hear they make you go crazy.”
“Well, with all due respect, Mr. PM, some people think you are already. Just a medical joke! Having said that, your risk of malaria is pretty low, but not zero. Mefloquine, or Lariam, is the one with the weird side effects – insomnia, dizziness, anxiety, depression and bizarre dreams. Let’s not use that one. OK? I’d suggest Malarone – the day before India, daily while in India, and for seven days after you leave India. Doesn’t bother most people, though upset stomachs, mouth ulcers and weird dreams can happen.”
“Any shots, Doc? I’ve been pretty well shot before. Even had my flu shot last week … a bit of a photo op, you know.”
“Well, let’s look at your yellow immunization record. Hmmm, you’ve had the hep A and B series – that’s good for life, and you’re up to date with your tetanus-diphtheria-polio. I’d suggest typhoid vaccine – against typhoid fever, a type of salmonella. It’s passed through food and water. Your risk is awfully low, but what a great headline … “Canadian trade mission struck by exotic fever. Parliament paralysed. Typhoid suspected.”
“OK. Gimme the typhoid vaccine.”
“Not so easy your Excellency. There is a shortage of the injectable typhoid vaccine. Sort of a recall. And you really don’t have time to take the oral typhoid vaccine as it is a series of four capsules over seven days and you are leaving tomorrow! You’ll have to take your chances on that one, but remember, don’t trust the food and water. If a trade deal depends upon it … well, it’s up to you!”
“Well you’ve been very helpful, Doctor Mark. So, I might say, was your staff. Anything else I should know?”
“Thank you Mr. Prime Minister. We like the fact that people enjoy our office. Oh, regarding that anything else …ya, don’t play with dogs, or monkeys. They’re all over. If you get bitten, wash it, go to my website, and call me, at …. The jet lag is gonna kill you! Have a great trip Steve.”
Tags:Dukoral·India·malaria·stephen harper·trade mission·wise
October 23rd, 2012 · Comments Off · Uncategorized
It’s that time of year again where travel clinics are filling up with people planning on getting away from Canadian winters. Some of these travellers warrant pre-travel inoculations – AKA shots, needles, jabs ….. For most people, this is not a great problem. Their arm may be a bit sore for a day or two, there may be a bit of pain during the injections, but for most people …that’s about it. Then there are the fainters!
Fainting, or vasovagal syncope, as doctors like to call it, can occur in many different situations, such as, but not limited to:
- the sight of blood
- some upsetting news
- a severe pain, such as a needle or a bad cramp
- being dehydrated
- getting up too quickly
- being on certain medications that lower blood pressure or dilate blood vessels, including alcohol
- wearing a hoodie and a scarf in the overheated waiting room
- standing in line at the bank for too long in the above mentioned hoodie and scarf
So to summarize, the typical person who faints or almost faints is someone who is young, overdressed, overstressed, underfed, medicated traveller …who then has an upsetting event like a needle and gets up too quickly!
In my experience, it happens most often in young adults and older teenagers, especially tall, lanky guys! And more importantly, PEOPLE WHO HAVE FAINTED BEFORE ARE MUCH MORE LIKELY TO FAINT AGAIN!
The main physiological problem when we faint is that our blood “pools” in our venous system, down in our legs, when it is up in our head/brain that we need it to stay alert and conscious. Fainters usually have a bit of a warning before they faint – they feel woozy or weak or lightheaded or sweaty or nauseated. They look pale as a ghost as their blood exits their head. If they don’t lie down, this will usually progress to fainting, or falling down and losing consciousness. It may resemble a seizure, with eyes rolled back and jerky movements of the extremities. In rare cases, one might lose bladder control. It also needs to be differentiated from other serious conditions such as allergic reactions, a stroke or a cardiac arrest. These latter things don’t usually happen in young, lanky guys!
The treatment of fainting is firstly, to anticipate it. Come to your travel clinic appointment well fed and hydrated. Take off your sweaters and jackets when you arrive at the clinic. IF YOU HAVE FAINTED IN THE PAST, LET THE DOCTOR AND NURSE KNOW. They can then give you your shot lying down, and keep a very watchful eye on you after your needle.
If you do get an injections and you feel “weak and dizzy” …tell the doctor/nurse, and then lie down, and get your feet elevated above your head so the blood comes back due to gravity. There is the temptation to deny one’s “faintability” and say “I’ll be ok!” Well you won’t be. Lie down with your feet up. Cold washcloths and a sip of water and a sucker are all nice touches, but the solution is in getting your feet up. Once the colour comesback to your face and your brain starts working again, you can progess to sitting for a while.
WE RECOMMEND THAT ALL INJECTEES STAY IN THE OFFICE FOR AT LEAST FIFTEEN MINUTES AFTER AN INJECTION, DUE TO THE RISK OF FAINTING, AND ALLERGIC REACTIONS. Both of these can be delayed. Sometimes people who faint stay a bit woozy for some time after their initial episode, so never be in a hurry to get out of the doctor’s office!
Tags:dr. wise·fainting spell·travel inoculations·vasovagal syncope
September 30th, 2012 · Comments Off · Uncategorized
Forty years ago, I took what remains my longest and most adventurous trip. My friend Howie and I backpacked through South America for three months in search of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. At the time, most travel agents weren’t quite sure how to fly us there. Guide books were scarce. We never called our parents back home. Mail was picked up every few weeks at a Canadian embassy. My camera took rolls of 36 pictures each, and they had to be shlepped around the continent and shielded from x-ray machines whenever I boarded a plane. And as for buses, restaurants and accomodations, we played it all by ear!
Next week I am off to Krakow, Poland, in search of relaxation, roots and religion. More technology has gone into this trip and will go into it than all of my previous worldwide travels put together. I can clearly see my greatgrandfather’s street in Opatow on Google Earth and have researched my geneology online.
Our flights with Lufthansa were booked online with Aeroplan. After studying every hotel in the city on TripAdvisor, we booked the Hotel Columbus and Kazimierz 2 on Expedia.ca . I reserved a quiet room in the back away from the trams by using a calling card and a telephone – 400 minutes for five dollars. No need to purchase a guidebook; Wikipedia, Lonely Planet and local tour companies tell me everywhere I have to see. And not much need for money or traveller’s cheques either. My VISA or debit card will do just fine.
This is my first iPad trip, not the New iPad, just an old one. On that, I have my music, pictures of my grandchildren, a yoga for bad backs routine, an alarm clock that will wake me to the sound of a babbling brook, a walking tour of Krakow, Paul Theroux’s new novel The Lower River, purchased on iTunes, as well as The Guernsay Literary and Potato Peel Society, downloaded from my local library. If I need the local weather report, or want to play music from a thousand stations around the world … no problem. The Globe and Mail will still be at my fingertips, as will The Krakow Post. Needless to say, I have already perused the menus and reviews of most of the restaurants in Krakow. When I need to navigate somewhere, there’s Google Maps. To be honest, I have already taken Rick Steve’s city tour on YouTube.
My digital camera, a Canon SX 200 with a four gigabyte memory card will probably accomodate all of my pictures. My spare battery was ordered online. Photos can easily be transferred to my iPad and then distributed to friends and family by email or Flickr with a few keystrokes. Should I need to touch up my photos, Camera + will do the job for me. If I want to self publish my photos into a lovely coffe table book on Blurb, I can probably do that in the Munich airport on the way home. Thankfully, I have avoided Facebook like the plague.
My hotels claim WIFI, so keeping in touch with family, friends and my office by e-mail or Skyping with my grandchildren will be a breeze. Last December, I converted to an electronic medical record at work, so if I need to check lab results as they trickle in in my absence … no problem.
And I don’t think I am very technolgically savvy. Most of my readers could probably do all of this and so much more on the new iPhone 5, that is, except for the admittedly lousy map function. Granted, I will still have to carry toothpaste, my Swiss Army Knife and a change of underwear, that is, until they get their own apps. I think I should be able to leave the Imodium at home.
Tags:Butch Cassidy·iPad·krakow·Opatow·Theroux·wise blog
September 17th, 2012 · Comments Off · Uncategorized
Sometime around 1967 I walked in Toronto’s first Miles For Millions fundraising walk. I can no longer recall to whom the proceeds went,though I believe some went to international charities. I dohowever recall that I raised more than three thousand dollars. My two biggest donors were my Uncle Dan, and The Monte Carlo Restaurant on Eglinton, where I had probably eaten about three square miles of pizza during my childhood! The walk stretched over 33 MILES, not kilometres, and it was not easy. My friend Jay and I splurged for a cab home from the City Hall, and I still remember how incredibly sore I was the next day.
Since that time, getting people to “sponsor you” while you do something strenuous or outrageous to raise money for charity has become second nature. Barely a week goes by in Toronto, and most other cities I would think, where a road (or expressway) or a tower is not closed for a run, walk, ride, climb, dance, sing, play, cycle) . And barely a day goes by in my travel clinic where someone isn’t venturing abroad to climb a mountain or ride a camel across a deser in some far off landt. One of my fondest and most bizarre memories was watching Suresh Joachim bowl for seven consecutive days to raise money for Canadian Feed The Children, where I happened to be chairman of the board.
Perhaps the greatest fundraising magnet that I see is Mount Kilimanjaro, which rises to about 19,340 feet above sea level in Tanzania. While not as high or weather-challenged as Everest, getting to the top of Kili is no walk in the park, and it does raise the very real risk of altitude sickness. Not everyone makes it to the summit, and deaths do occur on the mountain. It is not inexpensive to climb Kilimanjaro – you need a permit, guides, equipment, food, shelter and much more. So those with less time, or perhaps less money, ofter plan a shorter ascent, say five to six days, rather than a more leisurely seven or eight. The slower you go, the more likely you will make it to the top. If this is how you plan to go about reaising money for your favourite cause, be sure to educate yourself about altitude sickness - how to prevent it and how to deal with it should it occur.
Anastassia and Natalia Ferdman in suppport of CFTC on the top of Kilimanjaro
Not all money raised on Kili remains there, or in Tanzania or Africa for that matter. Granted, quite a bit of money is spent in country by the participants. My recent thought was that perhaps a portion of the money raised could go to a “local” cause, be it a health clinic, a school, an orphanage. That way, not only would Toronto, or wherever, have a lovely new wing or scanner, but the local community might also have some books or an incubator or a teacher.
If you are considering combining some travel with a challenge and humanitarianism, let me recommend Canadian Feed The Children and their connection with Charity Challenge. You can pretty well pick your destination and your challenge, and they will assist you with all of your arrangements and even your fundraising. In their words …”Challenge yourself to make a difference”.
Tags:altitude sickness·canaduan feed the children·charity challenge canada·fundraising·kilimanjaro
August 9th, 2012 · Comments Off · Uncategorized
Outbreaks of infectious disease come and go with regularity. They are not confined to far off exotic lands. Ask any Torontonian like me who lived through the SARS outbreak.
The most recent outbreak in the news was an Ebola virus outbreak in Uganda. This CDC link will give you all the information about past and present outbreaks of this deadly infection. When such outbreaks hit the news, people often wonder whether they should in fact be travelling to such a location (keeping in mind that most people weren’t planning on going to Uganda in the first place.)
For some perspective on that subject, let me quote Dr. Dick Stockley of The Surgery in Kampala, Uganda, who is a seasoned veteran of all that might ail you in Africa!
“Let us be realistic. Because the press picks up on one potentially deadly disease does not mean it is the only or even the biggest risk for people travelling in the tropics. Ebola is a recurrent problem in Africa and the fact that it is reported in Kibaale now does not mean it is not grumbling away somewhere else and there won’t be another epidemic from the same unknown source in another place next year. Yellow fever may be grumbling away in another remote rural area, unreported and unknown, and Anthrax, plague, Rabies, tick fevers, leptospirosis are also endemic. Cholera comes and goes, the press reports on it and it is a serious concern. The press does not report on it and it is then not a concern! Years ago travel advice was only concerned about HIV. It hasn’t gone away, we just got used to it, and it seems travellers are more careless now then they were 10 years ago when it was the number one scary infection. Road accidents kill more travellers than any other cause.
If people are willing to take the risk of travelling to the tropics, we should not let massive press coverage of one disease cause disproportionate concern. The best travel advice is and always will be “Don’t drink and drive, wear a seat belt and keep your knickers on”.
Dr R. J. Stockley
This does not mean that we shouldn’t make ourselves aware of the what the usual and unusual risks involved in travel might be. Sometimes, it may in fact be reasonable to cancel or postpone travel. Fears aren’t always rational, but one is still entitled to them if one wants!