As a ClanOps (Clandestine Operations) Officer, I knew one thing for sure.
I knew that I was going to be sent overseas to places and situations that were not tourist destinations.
There are a myriad of medical clearances that you have to obtain before and during the certification process.
But, in my case, some of the biggies were immediately after I got certified and prior to my first overseas op.
In the world of international espionage, you have to be fully prepared to jump on a plane and expect to wind up just about anywhere in the world.
Some of the places they sent me had lethal diseases, chronic hygiene and sanitation failures, and all manner of infectious illnesses. One time
, soon after landing, I went to use a public restroom. The walls, seat, door, floor and flushing mechanism were all covered with feces.
Some was obviously very old and plenty looked like it was from the last user.
As soon as I opened the stall door, I realized that I had put my hand into a batch of human excrement, excrement that could contain anything from Hepatitis or HIV to Ebola.
You cannot protect yourself from every ailment, disease, or virus out there, but you should give yourself a fighting chance to stave off the malady or at least arm your own immune system with some weapons for the battle.
The first step is getting into the very best physical shape that you can.
We all have to assess that for ourselves and we can all do better than we are doing now.
However, the next steps are not so subjective. Get a complete medical work-up, including a full physical, lab work and the whole nine yards.
Also get every vaccination available to you based on your health. Keep your own “Shot Record” with the date, place and name of every vaccination that you get.
Keep that with your passport and your Known Traveler Number. Also, make a note if/when you should get a booster for any vaccinations.
Furthermore, see a dentist to treat any dental issues and ask them to provide you with any form of prophylactic treatments available for any emerging or likely to emerge dental health problems.
This happened to me once. Just before heading off to a “dirty place”, I received a full medical screening. The dentist found that I had an incipient cavity forming.
He was able to treat it and apply a sealant. I was thankful. I sure would not have wanted to do that op with a toothache distracting me.
Next, talk with your doctor (and your dentist) about your overall health and find out your health challenges and weaknesses and do what you can to mitigate them or even alleviate them.
While with your doctor and/or dentist, using your self-confident grown-up voice, tell your doctor that you want him/her to give you some prescriptions for some essential antibiotics or other medications that you might need in an emergency.
Anything you can foresee yourself needing in the event you find yourself in a very nasty high-health-risk place like Sub-Saharan Africa, or even worse – San Francisco.
Here’s the cold reality: Much of his/her decision deliberation will depend on your lifestyle and how well you comport yourself during the visit.
Also, in civilian life, I have found that I get far more support from older, more experienced and mature providers than I do with newbies.
In addition to getting more fit, improving your health to your maximum ability, getting every vaccination your personal health will allow for, collecting all of the emergency-use-only prescriptions that you can get from your health care providers, also assemble a small kit or pouch for all of these items and any existing Rx’s you might already have.
Also include commonly needed items like tweezers, nail clippers, etc.
With increased terrorist activities, hurricanes, train derailments, sporadic power outages and many other threats to our normal operating days, if nothing else, you will get a level of comfort knowing that you have your “Stuff” squared away and that you’re ready for whatever comes your way.
Here is a very brief and truncated sample suggestion list of some items that you will want to include in your health preservation pouch:
Oral Hygiene Items: Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss, etc.
Haircare & Body Care: Including Razor, Sunscreen, Lip Balm, etc.
Eye care: Glasses, Contacts, Contact Solution, reading glasses, etc.
Feminine Hygiene Products: As appropriate.
You cannot always control your environment, but you do have control over how you deal with it.