Sunday, June 20, 2010

He’s got the feva’!

Well, as luck would have it, the other estadounidense (American) in the house has come down with typhoid fever. For those who aren’t familiar with food-borne pathogens of the developing world, it’s something you can get when you eat food or drink water that’s been handled by someone who has or carries the disease and forgot to wash their hands when they last used the restroom. You get a fever and a nasty case of the runs, which can put you in danger of dehydration. Untreated by antibiotics, it can lead a whole host of nasty abdominal issues. And, it is endemic here in Bolivia.

There is a vaccine, in fact two, but nothing in this world is completely fool proof. I last took it two years ago, and I took the live bacteria form (a week of pills) which I’ve always heard has better and longer results than the dead bacteria injection (which my poor housemate is pretty sure he got before leaving the states.) I’m being very careful, but I also figure I’m the one in the house least likely to get it at this point, all factors summed up together.
I have henceforth exiled the poor chap from the kitchen until he has not had a bout of the liquid poo for twenty four hours. I worry what our older dueños (landlords) would go through if they got the bug, especially Dora who has had a brush with cancer and has diabetes. I’m scrubbing surfaces like a fiend and cooking for the sick boy. It’s amazing how a 17 year old male can still have an appreciable appetite even amongst such nastiness!
I’ve had some nasty run-ins (pun intended) with similar diseases (particulary e.coli and salmonella) so I really feel for the guy. It’s no fun to be sick, and to be away from home in a foreign culture where you don’t speak the language fluently makes it a hundred times harder! And he’s so young to boot!
I found myself offering him some cultural advice last night (day two of the worst of his symptoms.) After all, think of how many kids get this or something like it on a fairly regular basis because they lack basic sanitation facilities. As a result they can’t grow or develop as they should. It’s not the most comfortable way to become sympathetic to the realities of poverty, and it is a little bit like the “offer it up for the soul’s in purgatory” line I heard all the time in Catholic school, but at least it gives one’s suffering some meaning the large scheme of life and personal development.

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