Businessman rushed back to Israel after contracting malaria

The man, currently unconscious and attached to a respirator, did not take prophylactic medication before traveling to Africa.

April 13, 2010 02:43
2 minute read.
Businessman rushed back to Israel after contracting malaria

mosquito 298. (photo credit: Cunter Muller/ Hebrew University)


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An Israeli businessman based in Liberia’s capital Monrovia was evacuated via Cairo to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer Sunday, after suffering brain, kidney and lung damage due to a severe type of Malaria.

The man, who is currently unconscious and attached to a respirator in hospital’s intensive care unit, did not take prophylactic medication before traveling to Africa.

Sheba tropical medicine unit director Prof. Eli Schwartz said the man’s condition was serious, but stable. Schwartz told The Jerusalem Post  on Monday that the complications could be reversed if the condition responds well to treatment.

The man, who is 54 and whose name was not released, travels frequently to and from Israel due to his work for a telecommunications company. A few days ago, after returning to Africa following the Pessah vacation, he felt unwell, with a rise in temperature. When he went to an outpatient clinic in a UN hospital in Monrovia, he was diagnosed with Plasmodium falciparum, the most serious of the four types of malaria that affect humans.

Despite the medical treatment he received, his condition quickly deteriorated; he began to lose consciousness and suffered epileptic attacks, indicating the virus had reached his brain.

His family decided to fly him immediately to Sheba, whose tropical medicine unit is experienced at treating the disease, which is caused by infected anopheles mosquitoes.

An ambulance took him to Cairo first (because there was no permission to fly directly from Monrovia to Ben-Gurion Airport). From there another plane, provided by his Israeli insurance company, evacuated him to Israel.

Plasmodium falciparum is the most prevalent type of malaria in Africa. It can affect many bodily systems, causing brain, lung and kidney damage.

The unit gets a seriously ill malaria patient who was infected abroad about once a month, on average, plus several mild cases. This was a more serious case than usual, said Schwartz, and required a more difficult evacuation.

Schwartz urged Israelis who travel to countries where tropical diseases are endemic to get prophylactic treatments. Anyone traveling in these countries who experiences fever needs go for blood testing immediately, Schwartz said.

Many Israelis who travel to such places neglect to get prophylactic medications, especially those who are there for longer periods and fear side effects, he said.

“But malaria is worse,” Schwartz declared, “and there are new medications that don’t need to be taken before the trip, but in the infected countries themselves.

“Some Israelis who travel to Africa and other places with infectious diseases develop a sense of false security because they go to urban areas and stay in five-star hotels, but they can get bitten there as well, and contract a life-threatening disease,” he said.

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