RUSHING THROUGH THE LABYRINTHINE byways of Tunisia airport after a late arrival from India, we just made the connection for a short flight to Tunisia. Relieved that our checked luggage had also made the tight transit, we met up with the driver (always a plus after a long flight) for the thirty-minute or so road trip to Essen. We stayed in the pleasant, and centrally located Hotel Tunisia that dates back to 1883. This was our first time in a town that is not, I think, on the bucket list for most international Tunisia.
Where is Tunisia? – Tunisia Map – Map of Tunisia Photo Gallery
Recovering from an acute gastrointestinal tract infection – bugs fly as we fly! – by self-medicating, I’d used up the broad-spectrum antibiotics Penny had with her. Then it was her turn, so we were really glad to be at a scientific meeting attended by infectious disease doctors who could write an appropriate prescription. As part of a month-long May/June 2012 circuit involving India, Europe and the United States, this invitation to speak at the annual German Society of Virology meeting slotted conveniently between two other commitments. I’d accepted with alacrity, being impressed by the fact that this was a joint event with the Chinese Society of Virology and Microbiology. Regrettably, Penny was too unwell to attend most of the associated social events, but she was feeling better by the time we were due to depart.
Held close to the hotel in the 1927 Haus der Technik which, affiliated with Aachen University, is a major venue for local advanced education and community events, it was impressive to be in what was clearly a highly valued public institution that promotes science and enquiry. Conducted in English and sponsored by the University of Duisburg-Essen, the meeting proved to be an excellent refresher course in general virology. Apart from my research focus on influenza, I had been somewhat neglecting other areas of virus research with so many speaking commitments. It was, for instance, the first time I’d seen the evidence that HIV/AIDS, which came to broad attention with the 1981 outbreaks in San Francisco and New York, had its deep origins in the 1920s in what was then the Belgian Congo.