Monday, March 27, 2006

Vive Vivotif Typhoid Vaccine

I was pretty nervous before I headed off to Asia the first time, at the age of 18. I wish I could go back now and tell my younger self that by the time I was on the plane, the hardest part was already behind me (so to speak). I’m talking about the inoculations and medications required for entry to Taiwan.

The tetanus shot was no fun, because tetanus never is. The hepatitis series was rough, injected as they were in a place that, well, let’s just say it was impossible for the doctor to look me in the eye when he did it. Malaria meds were scary because of the horror stories I’d heard about psychological side effects. (Although if they gave me weird dreams, they weren’t sufficiently more strange than my usual teenaged imaginings for me to notice.)

The worst part was the typhoid vaccine. It was one little prick in the arm, barely noticeable. Later that afternoon, however, I suddenly felt unbearably cold on a warm day and started shivering uncontrollably in a movie theater. (Later I was talking to the friend I’d seen the movie with, and we discovered that we remembered almost entirely different movies. The one I’d feverishly imagined sounded like the more interesting of the two.) By the time I dragged myself home, I was bone-tired, burning up with fever, and sick as a dog. It occurred to me that I should write my roommates a note explaining that I’d had a vaccine that had gone horribly wrong, in case one of them discovered me dead, but you might as well have asked me to write a novel. I couldn’t even begin to tackle the task without at least 18 hours of sleep. It was hard for me to imagine that full-blown typhoid fever could make me any sicker than I felt right then.

So I wasn’t looking forward to a visit to The Travel Doctor, a little clinic in Oakland specializing in turning adventure travelers into human dartboards. It was almost all good news, though. It turns out I’m traveling in Japan a few weeks ahead of Japanese encephalitis season. I had a tetanus shot a few years ago, and it’s still good. The hepatitis series I got to go to Cuba in 2003 will protect me through 2018. The greater Shanghai and Beijing areas have been declared malaria free, and the areas I’ll be visiting by train are too far north for malaria-bearing mosquitoes.

The only preventative measure I needed was the dreaded typhoid vaccine, the old one having expired some time ago. But good news there, too: The old vaccine is off the market (“It gave everyone a fever,” the Travel Doctor doctor told me when I complained.) The new one hardly makes anyone shake uncontrollably, and best of all, there’s an oral form. Gluttons for punishment can still choose to have an injection, which has the advantage of being over and done with quickly. But I chose to try the oral form, which consists of four capsules, taken on an empty stomach every other day.

The verdict? It was a little bit inconvenient to keep track of which days I needed to take a pill, and hard for me to time doses two hours after a meal, and one hour before beginning to feed again. (I’m not proud of this, I’m just saying.) But I’d still pick this regimen over a shot any day. The very mild G.I. issues I had were hands-down better than thinking I was going to die of fever. Three cheers for medical science.


Anonymous said...

OHMYGODTHANKYOU. I finished up my Typhoid regimen this past Thursday and all week I'd been feeling off until Friday when suddenly I had a fever and couldn't keep food down. I googled side effects and you were pretty much the only thing I could find that made it sound like GI issues were normal. Thought I was going crazy. Thanks!!

Nicole said...

Are you feeling better now? Your reaction sounds more extreme than mine. I hope it was short-lived. I think mine was. The first time, I remember feeling rotten for about 18 hours. The second time, I think my G.I. issues lasted longer, but weren't at all serious. I seem to remember the doctor telling me that might happen, so I'm pretty sure that is normal.

I'm glad you found my post reassuring! You're definitely not crazy. That's just one nasty vaccine. I can only imagine how awful the actual disease is.

Joshua Lockman said...

Hello everyone currently dying from their oral typhoid vaccine like me, i have been doing much research online and found zero articles where someone shares the stories of becoming ill from the oral vaccine. Im traveling to bali in a few weeks with my best friend, she does not believe in vaccine and will not be vaccinated before we leave. Typhoid vaccine was the only vaccine i was going to take since we planned on doing some hiking in more rural areas. The oral vaccine is a salmonella pill that you have to keep refrigerated in order to keep the virus alive (WHAT) As someone who avoids flu shots and vaccines at all costs i should have followed my gut not taken the pills. For many people the vaccine works like a flu shot depositing a small amount of the virus into your body so you immune system can learn to fight it off. Oral typhoid vaccines are a set of 4 pills, to be taken every other day on an empty stomach 1 hour before food consumptions WITH a full glass of cold or luke warm water. I took my first does Saturday morning and by 4 o'clock i had chills, migraine, nausea and other fever like symptoms. I brushed the symptoms off and finished my work shift, i was awake all night laying in bed, feeling uneasy, feverish and i COULD NOT SLEEP FOR THE LIFE OF ME. Sunday was the worst day i had a fever all day by 6 o'clock i was throwing up, i have never been so sick in my life, over the toilet every 30 minutes... another sleepless night. Since i am very in tune with my body i knew the vaccine was making me sick, upon reading the fine print in my medication instructions it does say that a small 1.7% of people who take the vaccine can become severely ill, and have imitated symptoms of typhoid fever. I will not be poisoning my body with the other 3 live typhoid vaccines, in fact i have already thrown away the reminding pills. It is now 48 hours since i have taken the first and only typhoid pill, just taking small sips of gatorade and a few crackers, hoping that after a day of rest my body will be back to normal tomorrow. if you are like me and become extremely ill after just 1 oral vaccine maybe you should ask yourself if it is worth it, i will stay away from the rural areas of bali and go out of my way to only use bottle water for drinking/teeth brushing and be very diligent in the food i chose to eat.

Nicole said...

Josh, I hope you're feeling better soon! That's a very scary reaction. I wish you safe and healthy travels.