Our school in Damascus has a full-time nurse. The staff at the school calls her Nurse Julie, and we’ve heard that she has been at the school longer than just about anybody. She is responsible for keeping students and staff healthy while they are there.
Nurse Julie sent us a letter outlining a few things we need to know. On the list were typhoid and hepatitis A and B immunizations for us all.
Kids these days get hep A and B vaccines as part of the routine series, but Andreas and I had to go down to County Health to get ours. We went separately and got different advice. He’s on the normal schedule, which means he’ll have to get his final dose in Damascus in six months. I’m on an accelerated schedule, so I have to get one more in three weeks and then a booster when we come back for a visit next summer.
Typhoid is not part of the regular vaccination routine in the US, so all three of us had to get that one. The map on the wall at County Health shows typhoid danger countries in green, and typhoid alert countries in yellow. It shows Syria as a yellow country, but it also says in the key that in yellow countries immunizations are strongly advised for “adventurous eaters”. Yup, that’s us. Andreas was the first to take care of it, and he opted for the oral live-virus version – a capsule every other day for a week. The thought of it creeped us all out (what is in those capsules, anyway?), so Alekka and I both chose to go with the shot instead.
My doctor said we should also get the rabies vaccine, but in the end we decided against it. I doubt there will be many bats and wild dogs in Damascus.
To get our work permits we will have to get a TB test, but that has to be done in Syria. Also residents under the age of 50 have to get an HIV test there. As old folks, Andreas and I are exempt. I’m trying not to get huffy over what they that says for Syrian attitudes about over-50s, and instead just be glad I don’t have to get another blood test.