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Health-Specifically Malaria

A lot of people balk openly when I mention some of the hardships that I will encounter as a Peace Corps volunteer in a rural location. Some of these things seem scarier than they actually are (squat toilets, no electricity, etc) and some of them really are scary (malaria, other tropical disease, the black plague). But fear not! Peace Corps medical officers in each country are literally on call to help volunteers with any health related question or concern that we might have. We also get extensive training on the kinds of diseases and other health related issues we are likely to encounter in our countries of service. This information helps us to be able to react appropriately should we have a serious health complication, and begin treatment right away with the tools given to us in our medical kits.

Thankfully, Madagascar is home to some awesome wildlife, none of which are lethal (aside from, of course, a bothersome little parasite that lives in mosquitoes, known as malaria). Malaria is endemic to Madagascar, and all Peace Corps Volunteers in malarial areas are required to take Malaria prophylaxis while in service and continue their treatment after they return home. I like to think of this prophylaxis as a suppressant instead, because it doesn’t actually stop the parasite from entering our bodies. Rather, it suppresses its activity so that we don’t actually become symptomatic. It also makes more sense to think of it this way because it makes the incentive to remember taking medication stronger- a missed dose does not open you for exposure, but rather threatens to allow the already present malaria to reproduce enough to cause health complications.

There are 3 types of medications Peace Corps Madagascar is approved to use for malaria prophylaxis: Doxycycline, an antibiotic, Malarone, a newer and more expensive medicine, and Lariam or meflaquine. I will be taking meflaquine for the next two years as a malaria prophylaxis. Once a week I ingest a pill, which helps to limit my likelihood of coming down with Malaria. Using things like bed nets, bug spray, and not having pooled water near to my house will help me reduce my risk as well. Malaria is a serious disease, and is almost always present in the north, where my site will be located. Check my posts and projects page for updates on any and all malaria prevention/ treatment projects I might do to help my community out!

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