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Travel Insurance Claims - True Stories Just some of the weird and wonderful things that happen to World Nomads travellers while on the road

True Travel Tales - Pesky Parasite

COLOMBIA | Friday, 19 November 2010 | Views [4047]

Every journey has a story; every trip has its unexpected twists. Plan and prepare as you may, some things happen on the road that take you out of your element, push you to your limit, and even put you in danger. These are the tales of triumph over tragedy, when you were in a sticky situation that you had to find your way out of – in another country. 

Rob Stables shares his tale of his battle with a flesh-eating parasite. The photo above was taken in South Africa about a week before Rob was sent home. Read his story and learn how to prepare yourself in the event of a similar situation. 

What happened? Tell us your tale.

Relaxing in the beautiful Tayrona National Park in Colombia, I noticed what appeared to be a bite on my elbow. I thought little of it until I started to notice lumps appearing all the way up my arm. By this time I had travelled over to South Africa for the FIFA World Cup, so went to see a doctor who took a biopsy and diagnosed me with Cutaneous Leishmaniasis, a flesh eating parasite. The cure: anti-biotics.

Not only did I not get better, the bite on my elbow got bigger and bigger until it went down to bone, covering the size of a pint glass. Back I went to the doctor who admitted he had no idea how to treat it and gave out anti-biotics like they were sweets (he prescribed the same course for my travelling companion who’d got some glass in his foot). On finding a doctor in South Africa who knew how to deal with a South American parasite I was advised to go home immediately, especially as sores were beginning to develop all over my body, most worryingly on my face.

Luckily my insurance bailed me out, got me a flight home the day after the England Germany game (along with thousands of English fans trying to head home and forget about the footballing disaster), and referred me to the Tropical Disease Clinic.

What was the outcome of the event?

Three months later and I’m still receiving treatment. The flesh-eater has decided to ignore the month long intravenously administered anti-parasitics and instead nest in various different parts of my body, most recently the sole of my foot, which to call it an annoyance would be an understatement.

Having said that, I’d run out of money by the time I was told I’d have to fly home, and the sob story got my friends and I access to a corporate hospitality box in Bloemfontein.

What advice would you give to other travellers to avoid or survive the situation?

ALWAYS take out a good level of travel insurance cover, especially when travelling to places with weird and wonderful diseases, ALWAYS use insect repellent, ALWAYS find out about local diseases so you’re aware of the symptoms to look out for and ALWAYS find a doctor who actually went to Med School, not a guy who resembles Doctor Nick Riviera off the Simpsons.

Travel Safety Advice from World Nomads

Ouch! That’s a nasty flesh-eater!

Unfortunately, if it was Cutaneous Leishmaniasis, it looks like you were bitten by a sandfly carrying the parasitic disease.        

It’s not an uncommon affliction (1.5 million are affected each year) – but, from the looks of your photo, just because its not uncommon, doesn’t mean it’s not a terrible sickness.

There are a few things you can do to help prevent sandfly bites, in addition to your advice:

- Cover your body (temperature permitting) when out on nature walks or adventure treks. If you can, wear long sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks. Also, tuck your shirt into your pants. It might not be the most fashionable look – but then, Leishmaniasis is a far bigger eye sore.

- Also, stay in well screened or air conditioned areas as much as possible. We don’t want you to stay indoors for your whole trip worrying about sandflies. But do try to ration your exposure to the elements – don’t over do it!

- Spray your clothing with insecticides containing Permethrin, and reapply after every five washes.

- Sleep in an area that has fine mesh bed netting – our research suggests 18 holes to the inch or finer.

Also, if you are like Rob and have been bitten and are suffering from the effects of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis, there are now effective treatments available to help.

It’s important to get treatment for this condition, as leaving it unchecked can lead to infections, disfigurement, and even death.

In the UK and the wider West, Sodium Stibogluconate is sold as Pentosam. (Manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline)

Meglumine antimoniate is sold as Glucantime in France, and Glucantim in Italy.

Both of these are used for treating Leishmaniasis.

Related Articles:

True Travel Tales - World Cup Alive

True Travel Tales - Abducted at Christmas in Saigon

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Tags: colombia, doctor, parasite, south america, terrifying travel tales

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