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Malaria: The dangers of not taking anti-malaria tablets

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  • Malaria: The dangers of not taking anti-malaria tablets



    Last Christmas saw Mandy George in a coma in a Dominican Republic hospital.

    Her mum and brother had flown to her bedside, and were praying she would fight off the malaria parasite that was attacking her organs and sending her body into septic shock.

    "Everything that could go wrong in my body went wrong," she says.

    After living and working in Haiti for more than two years, she had stopped taking anti-malarial medication.

    During her treatment in hospital Recovering in hospital with some of her medical team
    No one else she knew there was taking it and she had heard people say that the medication was harmful when taken long-term.

    That information was wrong, and the decision nearly cost Mandy her life.

    It was while on holiday in the Virgin Islands, just a week earlier, that 33-year-old Mandy started to feel unwell with a fever and some very intense headaches.

    Instead of getting medical advice there, Mandy waited until she returned home to Haiti a few days later, and by then she "felt horrific".

    "I collapsed. I begged a friend to take me to hospital, where I spent the night, and then in the morning I started to have liver failure and got pneumonia," she says.



    'A swollen carrot'

    Doctors in Haiti realised treatment in the nearby Dominican Republic was the best option and she was flown straight to an intensive care bed.

    By this time her liver and kidneys had failed, she had swelled up to twice her normal size. Her skin had also turned a yellowish-orange colour, making her resemble "a swollen carrot".

    She also needed blood transfusions and dialysis.

    The worst part for Mandy, however, was the sensation of drowning caused by her lungs filling up with fluid.

    "I was gasping for air even though there was air all around me. They were trying everything to make it better.

    "I had all sorts of contraptions on my face, medication to inhale, balloons of air pumped into me. But nothing worked."

    It was then that doctors decided to induce a coma. Mandy doesn't remember much of this time, although some images do stand out.

    "I was so ill I didn't have the energy to be afraid. I felt quite calm, although I kept telling them I couldn't breathe.

    "I saw my friend with tears in her eyes and the doctor standing with his arms crossed staring at my monitor.

    "I remember thinking - 'I could die here'."



    Deaths

    Mandy wouldn't have been the first UK national to die from malaria.

    In 2010, more than 1,700 travellers were diagnosed with malaria after returning to the UK and seven of them died. In 2012, two people died of the disease in the UK.

    Last month a woman from Lancashire died after contracting malaria on holiday in the west African country of The Gambia. She had not taken anti-malaria tablets either.

    Mandy says she survived thanks to the fantastic care of the medical staff in the Santo Domingo hospital - and one particular doctor who made it her mission to make sure she beat malaria.

    On holiday with her mum and brother after malaria Mandy visited San Francisco with her family after her health improved
    In the end, she spent one month in intensive care and several more weeks in a wheelchair while urging her weak legs to walk again.

    After several weeks of communicating by writing notes, because a tracheostomy tube had been inserted in her windpipe to help her breathe, she was finally able to talk again too.

    It was fully six months before she returned to normal, and by that time she had returned to the UK and was recuperating at her parents' home in Lincolnshire.

    "I was very lucky", she says. Doctors are always telling me, 'Wow it's amazing you are still alive!'. I feel very grateful and fortunate to be here now," she says.

    The fact she was young, fit and healthy was probably a factor in her recovery, but she is still very aware of how close she came to succumbing to the parasite.

    Mandy also has some important advice for others before they go abroad.

    "Don't travel anywhere if you think you have something seriously wrong with you, get tested immediately you think there's a problem, and low risk doesn't mean no risk.

    "I'm an intelligent person - but I had no idea how serious malaria could be."

    Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25265531

  • #2
    Your health is so important in this line of work, particularly when you are in remote parts of the world or at sea away from adequate medical facilities. You are entitled to medical treatment, you can go ashore to doctors and you can use the medical supplies onboard. Do not be afraid to have to go ashore to see a doctor, and do not be afraid to demand anti-malaria tablets. Although do research the different types of tablets because some have serious side effects whilst others don't. (Larium vs Malarone etc).
    Without your health, you cannot maintain your ENG1 and your career is over. Look after yourself first, the people around you second and then the company (I saw this because on some ships people feel that they need to get the job done no matter what...).

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    • #3
      All good stuff however its worth a mention that not all anti-malaria tablets are effective against the various strains of malaria. Prevention is better than cure so its cover all parts of the skin i.e. long sleeves and trousers, avoid if possible being outside during mosquito hunting times (dawn and dusk) and use insect repellent. Ensure that the repellent has 50% DEET concentration.

      You only require to do all the above whilst in port as even the most die hard of mosquito's can not last offshore, that being said all pools of water should be removed and not allowed to gather on deck plus draining down of the swimming pool to stop the little buggers living on the vessel. When taking anti-malaria medication as ever read the instructions, malarone is 3 days prior to arrival in a malaria zone and then 7 days after clearing, I used to work it on 3 days from SBE (Stand By Engines) and then 7 days after FAOP (Full Away On Passage).

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      • #4
        This is an issue that comes up again and again off West Africa - malaria can kill you, read and find out as much about it as you can. I've worked with a couple of guys who've had it and almost been killed.

        However for those who are working long term in Malaria areas it can have long term effects such as liver damage, certain tablets say you should not operate machinery while taking them and the more people who are taking them is making them
        more resistant, plus often they come with stomach problems and poor sleep. Again though Malaria can kill you, so find out as much about it as you can, use sprays. Try and find medicine that suits you- though usually the shipping company won't give you a choice. Some charterers make it mandatory, some don't.

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