Claire Panosian Dunavan,
MD, FIDSA, DTM&H (London)
UCLA School of Medicine
Division of Infectious Diseases
10833 Le Conte Ave, CHS 37-121
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1688

Division office: 310-825-7225
Voicemail: 310-794-6053
Facsimile: 310-825-3632

A Tropical Vacation Turns Painful When An Unsuspecting Tourist Catches Something Horrible

Discover, May 2009

Ronnie Martin, the hardworking creator of a popular TV sitcom, loved her tropical getaways. By all rights, her seventh visit to Bora-Bora should have been a breeze. Lucky seven, right? Then came her unlucky visit to the Rainbow Reef bar. Along with her afternoon Bloody Mary, she sampled a raw fish ceviche. Her husband Tom did not. It was a snack she would always remember with regret.

A few hours later, Ronnie lay moaning on the floor of her beachfront suite, desperately ill. The pain in her lower abdomen felt like a thousand stabbing knives. She had also vomited several times. Tingling, trembling, and unable to stand, she had just one thought: Need help—fast!

Soon, with Tom propping her up, she entered the only hospital within miles, a crowded sick bay far more rustic than what either of them had pictured when directed there by the hotel concierge. After receiving a liter of intravenous fluid, an unknown injection, and a working diagnosis of “kidney stone,” Ronnie had had enough. “Kidney stone, my a**!” she said to herself. She ripped the IV from her arm, got up, and staggered to a waiting taxi. Somehow she survived the ride back to the hotel and her flight home to Los Angeles the next day.

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Claire Panosian Dunavan, MD, DTM&H (London), 2008 President of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, received her education at Stanford University, Northwestern Medical School, Tufts-New England Medical Center, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. First as Chief of Infectious Diseases at LA County-Olive View Medical Center, then as Director of Travel and Tropical Medicine at UCLA, she has been a UCLA professor, clinician, and teacher since 1984. She has also worked overseas in Haiti, Taiwan, the Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam, Albania, Armenia, and Tanzania, among other countries.

Dunavan’s second career as a print and broadcast journalist includes 6 years as a medical editor, reporter, and co-anchor for Lifetime Television. In 1997, her interview with a dying physician won an international “Freddie” Award. In 2000, with her husband Patrick Dunavan—an 8-time Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker —she produced a television program on hepatitis B which has reached 300 million international viewers. In recent years, she has written regularly for national newspapers and magazines. She currently writes a weekly column called “The Infection Files” which runs in California newspapers. Her journalism spans issues in infectious diseases and public health affecting everyone on the planet to global health policy and economics.

© 2010 Claire Panosian Dunavan