Today’s lectures explored the variety of nasty little bacteria that are infamous for their ability to ravage the intestinal tract. Diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid fever, plain old food poisoning, and my personal favorite — cholera.
My avid fans (all two of you) may remember that I got really sick in Laos while traveling this summer. Looking back on that post I realize how much I downplayed my illness, mostly to prevent panic of those back home. Now that everyone knows I made it home safe and healthy, I’ll divulge the dirty details from that experience in a bit. (Those of you not morbidly amused by disgusting things may want to skip the descriptions.)
Anyway, as we watched and listened to the “bug parade”, as our prof called it, of all the little nasties that make you sick to your stomach, I was trying to guess which one made me sick in Laos. The standard traveler’s diarrhea caused by E. coli is statistically most likely, but it didn’t adequately fit my symptoms. Nor did dysentery or typhoid fever.
You know what did fit? Exactly? The same disease that’s currently wreaking havoc in Haiti — CHOLERA. (For those who, for some reason, don’t trust wiki, feel free to peruse the WHO or the CDC websites.) Contaminated food or water? Check. Infection resistant to antibiotics? Check. Expelling liters upon liters of clear fluid from both ends for days? Check.
Told you it was gross.
I’m really lucky that I didn’t land in the hospital needing IV hydration, though for a while it seemed like an inevitable eventuality. I tried to force and keep bottled water down, but that was a major fail. Instead, I forced soda and powdered Tang (which I initially mocked my travel buddy for buying two countries earlier because it looked disgusting, but the electrolytes saved my butt) down my throat to get some hydration, glucose, and electrolytes back in me, and fortunately that got me through.
It started to clear up after about three days, whether on its own or in part due to the cocktail of ciprofloxacin, azithromycin, pepto bismol, and immodium and tums I’d been ingesting* I’ll never know. I’m just glad — and lucky — that my immune system kicked it before the cholera kicked me.
*Don’t try this at home.