Tell me about your malaria.
January 27, 2006 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have a personal experience with malaria?

Would you care to share it?
posted by 517 to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My neighbor had malaria a few years ago. She was treated, of course, but she had an incredibly high fever for a few days, and hallucinations for most of it.
posted by jon_kill at 9:29 AM on January 27, 2006

My brother went to school in India when he was little, and came back to the US with _really_bad_ malaria. He recovered just fine, and his slides are apparently still (20-25 yrs later?) the official malaria training aids at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia.

If you have any specific questions, I'll ask my Mom, who is more likely to remember than my brother.
posted by 31d1 at 9:51 AM on January 27, 2006

My husband contracted malaria after a visit to Cambodia. We had taken prophylactics (mefloquine, which I hated.) It was the recommended prophylactic for the area, but after we returned we learned the CDC is starting to get reports of resistance to mefloquine in Cambodia.

The first episode was eight weeks after we returned to the US- severe shaking chills, high fever that lasted for a few hours and then went away. Even though my husband is a physician, it took him a few days to accept that he was really sick, because of the episodic nature of the illness, and his own stoicism.

The problems: our internist had never seen a case a malaria before, didn't ever see him when he was having an episode, and in my view didn't really "get it"- she referred him to an Infectious Diseases specialist who offered him an appointment one month later. (!) She wanted to take a "wait and see" approach. The lab had a hard time identifying the parasite from the blood samples. We attribute this to the fact that there are only a small number of malaria cases in the US. We wound up calling on a personal friend who is a physician with experience treating malaria, who told us that the malarone the internist prescribed would clear up the blood stage of the disease, but that the parasites had most likely taken up residence in his liver, and after a blood test for G6PD1 deficiency, prescribed a course of primaquine.

That was four months ago, and everything is back to normal. Clearly, we're still not sure that he'll never have a relapse, but now at least we will know what it is and what to do.

We were together the whole time in Cambodia- I don't know whether I dodged a bullet, whether I just was more thorough in applying mosquito repellant than he was on that fateful day, or whether I have a time bomb ticking in my liver.
posted by ambrosia at 10:15 AM on January 27, 2006

No personal experience, but I've met quite a few travellers who've gotten it themselves. Probably a better place to ask is the Lonely Planet messageboards, where malaria is a badge of honor of sorts.

Intestinal parasites, on the other hand--someday I can regale my grandkids with tale after tale.
posted by soviet sleepover at 10:16 AM on January 27, 2006

Calling carabiner! The Original Malaria Girl (tm). She has much to say at length about malaria, just you wait.
posted by nelleish at 10:42 AM on January 27, 2006

Same deal as ambrosia. A couple of hours one night of back-and-forth shivering chills and boiling, sweaty fever. Kind of entertaining. It happened maybe once more, then never again. It's been seventeen years.
posted by atchafalaya at 11:23 AM on January 27, 2006

Just to clarify: I only described the first episode. He had two a day, always lasting 5-6 hours, like clockwork. It gave him about five or six hours of daytime functionality, and another 5-6 hours of sleep at night. The first episode came on a Monday night, and it wasn't until Thursday that he sought medical help. After three days of malarone, he was feeling much better.
posted by ambrosia at 11:40 AM on January 27, 2006

Friend of mine came home from Ghana with it. Like what everyone said above, except experienced some incredibly intense psychological symptoms, ending up in a psychiatric hospital.

I'm not sure exactly how the malaria was treated, but the psychological symptoms dissipated with all the others.
posted by cloudscratcher at 11:47 AM on January 27, 2006

My freshman-year-of-college roommate had it -- had spent the summer in India with family, then contracted what her doctors misdiagnosed as influenza when she came back to the US in the fall. After repeated trips to the doctor (over what kind of a time span I'm not sure) he thought to ask if she had been anywhere tropical... Or she thought to tell him.

She was an idiot, though.
posted by penchant at 12:02 PM on January 27, 2006

My former roommate got it in Thailand. She was very ill for several days and then was treated with malarone, if I remember correctly. It's been several years now and she's not had any relapses.

When I went to Central America a few years ago, my doctor prescribed Lariam as a preventative. The drug turned me into a psychotic creep and I decided I would rather have malaria, even after seeing how sick my roommate had been. I stopped taking the drug, but fortunately didn't contract malaria.
posted by trip and a half at 12:17 PM on January 27, 2006

Saw this on Gizmodo a couple days ago:

Anti-malaria watch

Forget all those bells and whistles you may want in a watch, there’s nothing quite like the “Malaria Monitor,” which promises to sound an alarm if it detects the malaria parasite in the wearer.
posted by squink at 12:25 PM on January 27, 2006

I was teaching in Ghana for a summer and had been taking Malarone for over 6 weeks with no problems at all, even though I was getting bitten by mosquitoes all the time. One long weekend, I went mountain biking and neglected to take the Malarone with me. I started taking it again as soon as I got back.

About a week (or two?) later, I got a terrible headache and fever while out with friends, and decided that since I hadn't really been sick at all the whole time and that I almost never get headaches, it probably was malaria. The next day, I went to the local health clinic, where a very kind Ghanaian nurse took a little sharp pointy plastic thing, stabbed my finger as gently as possible to obtain a little blood sample, and confirmed my suspicions. I met with a doctor for about ten minutes, who told me to keep taking my Malarone and prescribed me some smallish yellow pills in a plastic bag. I stopped feeling crappy a few days later.

I was in Togo and Senegal the next week, and haven't had any relapses or other side effects.

Best of luck.
posted by mdonley at 1:00 PM on January 27, 2006

Wait I'm confused (and partiallly worried now!)

I travel to Africa on biz all the time, Ghana and Nigeria mostly, and when I do I take Malarone.

I just spent a little over three weeks on holiday in India, and once again took Malarone but apparently there is a "malignant" form of the disease there that Malarone isn't effective against? Or so said the nurse at the BA Travel Clinic. She suggested that I stick with the Malarone as I my body tolerated it ok.

I don't mean to derail, but is Malarone both a preventative and a cure?

And what prophylactics were the people who caught Malaria in India taking? I did spend lots of time in the jungles and down in caves, but glopped plenty of insect repellant on.
posted by Mutant at 1:09 PM on January 27, 2006

Mutant, I'm not an expert, but there are four different parasites that cause malaria, and each is treated differently. In addition, the parasite can become resistant to a particular treatment over time, and that resistance is often localized to a certain area. What works as a prophylactic for West Africa may not work for use in Southeast Asia. One of the four parasites, P. falciparum, is much deadlier than the other types, and that may be what the nurse was referring to as a "malignant" form.

The drugs used to treat malaria can be used as a prophylactic as well, so malarone, like Larian (mefloquine) is both.
posted by ambrosia at 3:12 PM on January 27, 2006

I nearly died from malaria a couple of years ago. Caught it in Laos while trekking through the jungles on the northern Laos/Chinese border. Didn't realize I had it for a few weeks (incubation period); by the time I started feeling like crap I was in Singapore, mistakingly thinking I had gotten a mild cold from the (over) air-conditioned bus and subsequent monsoon that fell in the interim.

Malaria fits come in cycles, where infected blood cells literally burst with pathogens that proceed to infect the next group of cells (geometrically progressing). At each point in the life-cycle you think, "Oh, must have been a passing sickness, because I feel better now," followed in a couple of hours with, "Oooh, maybe I'm not better yet." Rinse. Repeat.

Each time you're "recovery" gets worse and worse. By the time I got back to the States, I was in horrible shape. On the plane trip back through Hong Kong, I scared the passenger sitting next to me so much with my shivering and shakes that he got a stewardess to give me a really nice blanket they usually reserve for first-class patrons. By the time the plane had landed, I was in a "feeling better" point in the cycle, and saw my parents for the first time in several months. My mother commented that I looked jaundiced, to which I replied, "I think you mean tan!"

Two days later I could barely walk up the stairs in my home without getting so winded I had to sit down. I saw a doctor who thought it was merely the flu. The next day it took me over an hour to drink a single glass of orange juice because I kept running out of breath. I went to the nearest OR and got a second opinion.

Malaria. Falciparum. The doctor's exact words when he came back with my diagnosis were, "Frankly, I cannot understand why your are still conscious." My blood infection level was more than 30%. Had I waited a day longer, I would not be typing this right now. As it was, I was given an immediate and obscenely large dosage of some quinine derivative, which had two immediate effects. The good effect was that every infected blood cell died, and all of the infection was irradicated. The bad effect was that it reduced my bodies' working blood supply to about half, which put me into an immediate coma.

Had I been awake for any of it, I'm sure I would have been very annoyed. I was quickly taken to the intensive care unit and put under 24 hour observation. My lungs started filling with fluid, causing me to groan and scream in agony (this was my mother's observation, as I happily don't recall any of this), my spleen and liver nearly shut down, my temperature shot up to something horribly unhealthy, and there was very serious concerns aired from the lead doctor in my case that even if I did somehow live through it, I might be permanently brain damaged.

So that's what life was like for about three days.

After a few transfusions, my fever subsided and I regained consciousness. Apparently my first words were a rather annoyed, "Stop doing that," to my mother who had been wiping cool water on my brow. I think she quickly realized I was going to be fine.

I was in the hospital for another few weeks. My spleen ached like all-hell for months afterward. My liver is fine, but I never was much of a drinker, anyway. No (descernable) brain damage. :) I got very, very lucky, and even then, had some really good specialists treating me. I was the highest blood infection rate my tropical disease specialist had ever seen that still lived. I felt like a (very tired) rock star.

Uh, yeah. Fast forward a year.

Almost to the day, a year later I'm taking a shower. Feeling a little wierd. Head feels light. I lie down. Start to get these shakes. "Uh oh..." I'm thinking. "These feels just like malaria. But that's impossible--I haven't been anywhere!"

I go to the closest hospital--Mass. General; nothing serious, I think. Probably the flu. I tell the nurse how I feel, even tell her about the 'ol malaria a year ago. But this can't be malaria, of course, because I'm completely cured of that. Gotta be the flu. She takes some blood, heads out, and an hour later a Doogie Howser comes in and tells me I gots myself some malaria.

Turns out, my initial infection was what's called a mixed infection. I had not only the P. falciparum strain of the malaria bug, I also had P. vivax. strain. Killing one doesn't do shit to the other, but the medical community treat any malaria infection as a falciparum infection first and foremost since it's the most deadly. In my case, I had both strains, it's just the falciparum strain was completely overwhelming the numbers of vivax strain in the tests, so they never knew I had it.

The gift that keeps on giving. Anyway, another couple of weeks of pills (probably Chloroquine) and I'm right as rain.

Sorry for the long-ass story.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:19 PM on January 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

I caught it in (probably East) Africa 15 years ago.

I had very mild symptoms over there (which at the time I thought could have been anything) but started suffering seriously about a month after I got back. Huddled under two duvets with my back right up against a four-oven aga stove, I was still cold. And the headaches were the worst pain I've ever been through. (I had no psychological effects, though.)

I spent a week in hospital, and have been right-as-rain ever since.
posted by rjt at 4:23 PM on January 27, 2006

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