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Author Topic: Malaria medicine - cause problems?  (Read 2133 times)

Jane

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Malaria medicine - cause problems?
« on: January 03, 2014, 12:20:56 PM »
I have heard terrible things about some of the malaria medicines the Peace Corps has you take.  If you are in a country that requires it do you have a choice as to whether to take it and which ones to take? 

Offline jlmanzak

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Re: Malaria medicine - cause problems?
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2014, 01:50:08 PM »
I have also heard some of these things. However, I'd like to point out that malaria is a terrible disease, and you really really don't want to get it. What has been the experience of those who have taken it, and or had malaria? I have a particular interest in this topic as I will be in a country with malaria!

Offline Khaleesi

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Re: Malaria medicine - cause problems?
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2014, 10:41:43 PM »
I was on mefloquine for malaria prophylaxis in a previous service trip to Guatemala. I had some really really vivid dreams (mostly nightmares) every night. Otherwise there was nothing wrong with it, but your mileage may vary.

To Jane, there will probably be a recommendation for which medication you will need to take depending on which country you're going to. The malaria strain particular to your country may have different resistance patterns to different prophylactics. Once you receive your invite, you sign a form saying you will adhere to all medical advice that the medical office will tell you, including taking your anti-malarials; I find it hard to believe that PC will let you refuse anti-malarials because of their known side effects. They are the ones who will be paying for your medical care if you get malaria. I do think that if you have previous mental health history or some other contra-indication to a specific type of malaria medication, they may allow you to take a different type, but obviously it would need to be documented in your medical history.

Offline shawn

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Re: Malaria medicine - cause problems?
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2014, 11:57:20 AM »
Actually, failure to take anti-malarial pills is grounds for Administrative Separation. I've never heard of PCMOs advocating that, but if you get malaria once and they find out you were not on your meds, and then get it again because it obviously didn't scare you into taking your meds and so you just... didn't, they WILL send you home.

I know a lot of PCVs who just didn't take them. I would NOT advise that, but its a personal choice. Also, not every Post requires them as Malaria isn't endemic everywhere.

Just have a frank conversation with your doctor now or with the PCMO when you get there. Meflo is only once a week and i assure you the horror stories are (for the most part) greatly exaggerated and/or rare. Occasionally, people DO freak out on it, but i'd bet that's only partly the drugs
PCVL - Rwanda 2010-2013
NPCA Serving Volunteer Advisory Council

Offline libby

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Re: Malaria medicine - cause problems?
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2014, 07:57:48 AM »
Both of us are on malaria prophylaxis. I am taking doxy and my husband takes Mefloquine. A few months ago my husband was given the option to stop taking Mefloquine -- apparently due to new research -- and take another prophylactic instead. He stayed on the Mefloquine because he hasn't had any problem (and feels a little ripped off that he doesn't have vivid dreams).

To me, it's not worth screwing around with malaria, especially since drug resistant stains are becoming more common. If anyone felt like they would absolutely refuse to take malaria meds of any kind, I'd tell PC before they place you that you refuse to go to a country with risk of malaria.

Offline koji

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Re: Malaria medicine - cause problems?
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2014, 02:18:17 PM »
As far as choice to not take required medicine, there isn't much. Our post had to threaten a few volunteers with medical separation because they did not want to get the required flu shot (not required at every post). I am not sure if they actually WOULD med-sep over that, but they definitely made it sound like they would, and I think malaria meds would be a bit more... strict. A lot of volunteers receive great medical care while in service, but the flip side to that is that the medical staff needs to be able to trust that you are doing everything possible to take care of yourself while you are at your site, and for the most part that means adhering to standard medical procedures for your post.

Offline Jeff

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Re: Malaria medicine - cause problems?
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2014, 08:46:03 AM »
When I served everyone who didn't already have a known allergy/reaction to Mefloquine (Lariam) was given that medication.

I did have some problems - in addition to vivid dreams, I started having sudden pressure in the ears and progressive hearing loss.  Without any other explanation, the PCMOs switched me to Doxy, and my hearing returned.  I understand that's not a common side effect, but I have heard at least one other person mention similar issues.  Overall, I did feel MUCH better in general (not just the hearing) once I switched, though I did manage to get malaria, which wasn't fun.

At least two people have died in relation to serving in my country after they had stopped taking their malaria meds over the past decade or two, so I would personally not even consider NOT taking it.  The side effects were worth the risks, and the PCMOs were very responsive once I started having issues to switch me to something else that I had no side effects with (although having to get hearing tests and other things done at a Ghanaian Army Hospital was a unique experience in and of itself - they first assumed that my hearing loss was caused by my firing my rifle too close to my ears as part of my service with the Peace CORPS; took a while to get across that it wasn't that kind of Corps!).

Due to the deaths (one of which was not too long before we started PST), they were VERY serious about Admin Seps for people who were caught not taking the prophylaxis.

As a side note, I see that in some countries not taking malaria meds is a med sep, not an admin sep - in Ghana if I remember it was an admin sep, which was considered like being fired, while a med sep was usually considered to be something outside of the PCV's control, and not a 'negative' or punitive separation.

Jeff.

Jeff
RPCV - Ghana, 03-05
PCV - Macedonia, 15-17