Travel Without Immunity


A few blog posts ago, I commented that I didn’t have measles immunity despite having had measles and vaccinations. And it’s obvious that I love history. Some of the things I would love to do in life, is see some places in the world that correspond to my love of early civilizations. Egypt and Belize are two of the places I would love to see before I die… But it’s not going to happen.

In 2006, I went to Berlin, Germany. Beautiful place. I didn’t want to come back. But as I prepared for the trip I had to get a couple of immunizations against hepatitis or something. I don’t remember now. At the time, I was given another round of MMRs that didn’t change my immunity or lack thereof to measles.

Recently, I was watching one of those exploration shows and it dawned on me that no matter how much I want to see Belize, Mexico, or Egypt, I literally can’t. On the show, the host ran across a group of kids outside a church. They looked a little lost and sad. The host commented that he had been told there was a measles outbreak in the town and nearly half the population was sick as a result. The kids outside the church were asymptomatic, but were being taken care of by the church because they had family members that were sick at home.

Well, damn, I’d never thought of that. Countries like Belize, Egypt, and Mexico do not require vaccinations against most diseases and they are expensive enough that most people can’t afford them unless there is a free clinic that pops up offering them. The population is always at risk for outbreaks of diseases that have been mostly eradicated from countries like Germany, the US, Canada, the UK, France, etc.

This makes these countries no go zones for me. I’ve had lots of friends take Caribbean cruises, but I get sea sick, so I’ve never even given serious consideration to one. Which is probably good.

The measles virus can survive in the environment for a dozen or so hours. This means that even if I never left the ship, I could still be exposed to the measles virus. Anyone who goes off ship could potentially carry measles back on board via clothing or souvenirs they purchased.

It is something I have never thought of before, because nobody that lives in a country where these deadly diseases don’t happen very often, thinks about immunity. We’ve been vaccinated, we’re safe. Unless we’re not.

And so, at 1:42 in the morning, my dreams of seeing Mayan temples or The Great Pyramid of Giza up close and personal, die a painful death.

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