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Valentine’s Day - Code Red

Indian Ocean - February 14, 2008

90 °F

This morning I awoke to find that I’d received a “candygram” from M. The kids decided to sell candygrams to help raise money for the students with hardships. It’s a nice gesture. I didn’t get candygrams for anybody, but I invite all of you to be my Valentine. I’d blow you a kiss to seal the deal, but later in the day we had a community-wide meeting to announce that we have a Code Red on our hands – a gastroenteritis Code Red to be exact. If a certain percentage of people on a ship have viral GI issues, steps must be taken to ensure that a full on outbreak doesn’t occur, and nobody wants that as we near the idyllic Seychelles because we could actually be banned from the port, so I'll keep my kisses to myself, windblown or otherwise.

There are less than a dozen cases of people with problems – nearly all of them travelled extensively in India or are rooming with people who did. When a case is identified, that person and his or her roommate are quarantined in their rooms – normally for 48 hours, but we were just told that period has been extended to 72 hours. An additive is also being used in the water that’s used for laundry, and ship officers are maintaining a watch outside of the dining hall to make sure that everyone entering uses the hand sanitzer. (I just go in the back way, as I don't believe in those hand gels). I’m not super worried about this, but one of the LRC student assistants with whom I was working closely (we share a desk) complained of stomach problems just before lunch yesterday. By evening, he was inducted into the 72-hr. hall of misery. If I'd caught it from him, I would have known within 12 hours.

The community-wide meeting was called by the “Doctor,” but the decision to go Code Red was actually made the ship’s Staff Captain, so this is serious business. We are urged to wash our hands frequently – at least 20 times per day – and to be vigilant about turning ourselves or others in if there’s a suspicion of illness. Symptoms include headache, stomach discomfort and cramping, diarrhea and vomiting. I’ve already been keeping to myself for the most part, so I’m going to continue to do so. I spend a lot of time in my cabin or out on the deck but almost always alone. I tend to eat alone or with one other person – I rarely join a table of more than two or three people. I haven’t been washing my hands anywhere near to 20 times per day, but I do wash frequently and with water that’s hot enough that it’s remarkable that I don’t need a skin graft. I’ve got my probiotics that I’m taking every single day. And basically, I’m just sticking to common sense. Anyone who gets quarantined now is screwed because we are due to reach the Seyechelles in less than 60 hours, meaning that a 72-hr. stint would effectively keep you from seeing what is supposed to be the most beautiful spot on the planet.

On a lighter and completely unrelated note, I was on the deck earlier today, reading The Last Will and Testament of Senhor da Silva by a Cape Verdean writer. I am not in love with it, but I was engrossed enough that I wasn’t paying any attention to the water. We are passing through a part of the Indian Ocean that is know as whale and dolphin territory. Suddenly, I heard a yelp and two or three people running towards me. When I looked up, I saw a gigantic pod of dolphins going past us – I’d say at least 100. It was pretty nifty. It was about twice as many as I’ve ever seen at one time. (I routinely saw pods of 20 to 50 when I was at Esalen for a month in 2006). Plenty of flying fish about too. Fish with wings - who knew?

Posted by mpho3 08:39

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