Rats and other vectors

July 19, 1999
Vectors in this case are disease carriers such as rodents, mosquitoes, and ticks.

Vectors in this case are disease carriers such as rodents, mosquitoes, and ticks.

Why should we worry about these mundane creatures in this high-tech age? Haven`t science, vaccines, and insecticides whipped these nasties, freeing us, the masters of high technology, to blithely surf the gleaming internet? Well, no.

Like something out of a Stephen King novel, they have come back and are silently eyeing us. So if you work for an organization that is likely to send you on short trips or longer assignments into any number of regions, your project manager, human resources director, and medical department should know of this.

Old foes

Dr. Robert Shaw, chief medical officer of Texaco Inc., calls vector-borne diseases "the resurgence of old foes" in the abstract of a paper he is to deliver in November at OGJ`s conference, Health Care and Trauma at Remote Locations, or Hectra (see Calendar, p. 8).

I am chairing the conference and will write a report on it for OGJ later this year. As a result, I am previewing a compelling and exciting program by physicians and oil industry specialists who have been there and seen that.

Dr. Shaw points out that dengue fever has broken out in areas previously free of the disease and that urban yellow fever reappeared in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, after an absence of 44 years. Both are spread by mosquitoes. He has recommendations for coping with such threats, and others, for project managers at remote sites.

Another presentation by Dr. Jay Keystone of the Travel & Tropical Disease Centre of Toronto Hospital will give the 10 commandments of tropical travel. Other critical information for travelers will come in a presentation on self-diagnosis and self-treatment by Dr. David Shlim. Much of his expertise comes from treating and advising trekkers in Nepal. A lot of people already do too much self-diagnosis at home, but this lecture is meant for the traveler in a tight spot, days from adequate medical help.

Dr. Ken Lindemann of Exxon Co. International will address a knotty issue: cooperative planning throughout a project cycle to promote lasting improvement in the health of the local host community. And R.A. Hanson will tell how BG plc assesses health risks on offshore drilling rigs it wants to hire.

In all, 25 papers will be presented at the Hectra conference.


The quest for these abstracts took this editor in many directions, even out (virtually, as we say nowadays) to the beautiful archipelago near Bergen, Norway, where Dr. Arne Ulven of Statoil was sailing late last month during his vacation. He had his mobile phone on board, and I talked to him from my office in Houston about a presentation on Statoil`s program to notify expatriates and their families at home about personal tragedies or sicknesses.

At one time, there was a flapping sound, and Dr. Ulven said, "Excuse me, I have to get the rudder." He returned a few moments later. Then there were some excited background voices and some clatter. He went off the phone briefly again and returned, saying, "The kids are playing with a water gun."

I felt quite refreshed, even in steamy Houston, after that discussion.