Kenya and Uganda – Katie Fiorella (2010)

Katie Fiorella is a UC Berkeley PhD. student in environmental science and public policy and a Princeton University grad. Thanks to a $1500 scholarship from Sara’s Wish Foundation, Katie worked in Uganda and Kenya, exploring the implications of human-wildlife interactions, specifically as they relate to the transmission of disease.

Here are Katie’s travel safety tips:

1. Medical – Visit a local pharmacy and doctor prior to leaving the island to obtain deworming medicines, treatment advice, and anti-malarials. These clinics will be infinitely more experienced with tropical diseases than even the best travel medicine specialists in the US and the medicines available in-country are generally the correct ones to fight local strains of parasites. Thus, the antimalarial drugs specific to your site will work best for you. You can develop malaria for several weeks after returning to the US, so it’s always a good idea to come home with anti-malarials, which can be tricky to get in the US.

2. Consider what activities you’ll be engaged in and what safety provisions will be available. For example, would you expect a life jacket to be provided on a 3 hour boat ride? Yes. It’s always possible to bring these things along, and/or to ask for them – sometimes they’re just sitting in the office. The power that talking about the need for safety precautions has can be very influential.

3. Emergency First Responder – Consider taking a course that helps you be prepared for first aid in remote locations. I plan to take this course before I head to a rural site in the future.

4. Emergency phone numbers – As soon as you land, enter key phone numbers in your cell phone, these include the embassy, someone with a car/boat depending on your location, the nearest clinic/doctor, and your medical insurance. Probably a good idea to carry around a list of these numbers as well.

5. First Aid Kit – Pack one sufficient for where you’ll be. This needs to consider both the stomach illnesses you may encounter and, critically, first aid.