Meningococcal Disease Travel Warning

February 24th, 2009

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (One of my favorite web sites, I might add!) issued a warning last Friday (February 20, 2009) on Meningococcal Disease and travel to Africa. I will briefly review their suggestions but highly encourage you to read the entire warning if you are planning on traveling soon. Ethiopia is in the Meningitis belt of Sub-Saharan Africa. This belt stretches from Mali, West Africa to the Western half of Ethiopia. Outbreaks of Meningitis are most common in the dry season between December and June. What is Meningitis? The short answer is: An infection in the brain and/or spinal fluid. It can be bacterial or viral. Viral is the less severe kind and… [more]

Hair and Scalp Issues Upon Coming Home

January 24th, 2009

I had been nervous about learning how to do Mita and Enu's hair before I met them. When I discovered that Mita had a bad fungal infection on her scalp, with multiple encrusted and seeping scabs, my nervousness left me and I went into nurse mode! I quickly got treatment from our agency's Doctor. I learned that this is a common infection in group home settings and can be hard to keep under control. We started her on pills twice a day for six weeks. I also used a harsh dandruff-like shampoo on both Mita and Enu's hair for six weeks. Since Enu slept with Mita, I was trying to keep her from getting it as well. I kept hair brushes separate and… [more]

Giardia, a common health issue

September 19th, 2007
Categories: Health Issues

One of the common issues that many families face is that of giardia. Giardia is a parasite that comes from tainted water. It causes frequent loose bowel movements, often accompanied by a very foul smell and lots of cramping and gas. Our first Ethiopian daughter had a good case of it, and I suspected it right away. Unfortunately when we had her tested in the US, three different stool specimens came back negative. The lab couldn't find a thing. Finally our doctor got tired of not being able to figure out why she was having 6 dirty diapers a day, and he prescribed a 10 day course of Flagyl, the standard treatment for giardia. Three days after she began the medicine, her diarrhea was gone… [more]

Common Medical Issues: Molluscum

September 14th, 2007
Categories: Health Issues

A common skin condition that many Ethiopian children have on homecoming is molluscum. Molluscum are small, harmless wart-like growths on the skin that are caused by a virus. Most often these growths can be found on the trunk, arms, legs, and face. They can also be in the hair. Molluscum can be as small as a millimeter or larger than diameter of a pencil eraser. Some have a whitish top similar to a blister, and others look pinkish and wart-like. (photos) Kids may have just one, or many at a time. Molluscum are spread by skin contact or through sharing items such as gym mats or equipment. People with weakened immune systems are more likely to get molluscum, as are people with… [more]

Baby carriers for toddlers: NoJo sling, Hip Hammock

July 31st, 2007

In planning to go to Ethiopia, I have been trying to decide what might be the best way to carry our 28 pound 2 year old. She can walk, but in strange situations she insists on being carried, and does not have the stamina for walking long distances. In Addis the roads are rough (and often muddy)making a stroller an impractical option, except maybe for wheeling around in a hotel. Over my years of parenting I have tried a variety of carriers. In the next two posts, I'll be giving you my impressions of the NoJo sling, the Snugli frame-style backpack, the Hug A Bub, the Hip Hammock, and the Ergo. All of these are decent carriers with plenty of good points. I'll try to explain what… [more]

How to cope with illness in Addis

July 24th, 2007
Categories: Health Issues, In Addis

Photo credit: Zela (stock.xchng)Sometimes, despite your best efforts at caution in Addis, you succumb to the dreaded stomach crud. Because of this, it is wise to come to Ethiopia prepared. When your stomach starts rumbling, your first line of defense should probably be something like Pepto-bismol or Tums. If the stomach upset is mild, this treatment along with very cautious eating and maybe some lemon-lime soda will probably get you back to normal within a few hours. Imodium? If you find yourself visiting the bathroom many times, it may be tempting to take some Imodium. However, unless you need to go to the embassy or get on the plane that day, it is probably best if you let the illness run it's course… [more]

Hepatitis A Risk with Ethiopian Adoptees

July 21st, 2007
Categories: Health Issues

The CDC announced on July 20th that several cases of hepatitis A have recently been reported in people who have come in contact with adoptees from Ethiopia. Because of this, Hepatitis A immunizations are recommended not only for parents traveling to Ethiopia, but also for all members of households that will be welcoming Ethiopian children home. Two doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine confer life-long immunity, but even one dose will provide 70% immunity. If you do not have time to get both doses before traveling, you will still probably be OK. The Hep A vaccine is safe for children as young as 12 months. Most children under the age of 6 years do not get sick from the infection, but can spread it to… [more]

Ethiopia: Which immunizations are required for travel?

June 16th, 2007

Lots of people wonder which shots are necessary for Ethiopia. Most people will need to an international immunization nurse to get shots for Ethiopia. Check with your county health department to find out where the international travel nurse is located in your area. Keep in mind that most insurance companies view international travel as optional and will not cover the cost for most international vaccines. If you get the full complement of recommended shots, you can come away with a bill of $500 or more. John and I talked over our options ahead of time, and so he already had an idea of which shots he wanted to get. The nurse that we talked with was very helpful. She said that nothing is absolutely required. But then… [more]

Affordable Malaria Drugs

March 4th, 2007
Categories: Health Issues

On March 1st, the Washington Post reported some good news on the malaria-fighting front. Malaria Drugs Could Cut Deaths in Africa By MARIA CHENG, The Associated Press LONDON -- The first affordable combination anti-malarial drug tailored for children will soon be available across Africa, potentially saving millions of lives, the nonprofit organization and the pharmaceuticals giant who worked to develop it said Thursday. The new medication, known as ASAQ, combines two of the most effective drugs known to treat malaria, artesunate and amodiaquine. ASAQ is the result of a $21 million, two-year project by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative and pharmaceutical manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis. To make the drugs available where they are most needed, the new drug is not patented and will be available to anyone who wants to manufacture it. The article goes… [more]

Affording Health Care For Children with Special Needs

March 1st, 2007
Categories: Finances, Health Issues

One of our sons was born missing his right foot. When we were considering his adoption, one of the biggest issues in our minds was the cost of providing him with prosthetic legs. He needs on average one new prosthetic per year at a cost of around $10,000 per leg. That's no small chunk of change. We were familiar with the work that Shriner's does for children with orthopedic needs, burns, and spinal cord injury. We investigated and were pleased to learn that we would be eligible for help from them, and that all costs would be covered. As it turned out, our own health insurance was quite good - good enough that we ended up deciding to use local prosthetics services instead of… [more]