Malaria Or Food Poisoning? Day 2 Safari Ruined

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Malaria Or Food Poisoning is part of the South America & Africa Points Heist Trip Report.


I’m too familiar with food poisoning. Sharm El Sheikh was the worst. Siem Reap was second. Prague was third. Atlanta when Michigan went to the Final Four was fourth. There are probably others that I have chosen to forget.

I got a strange feeling when we arrived at the entrance to Mara. I thought it was from the rough drive. After dinner, the bleh feeling turned into chills. That turned into many visits to the toilet but not to throw up. Chills gave way to an intense fever and back to chills. At 5AM, I thought I was healed and fell asleep. At 7AM, I was back to feeling terrible.

With an hour to go before my next game drive, I made the tough decision not to go. There was no way I could be out in the bumpy van without a toilet close by. When the doctor came to see me in my room, I was on fire. He checked my temperature which was 102 degrees and took down my symptoms. With no blood taken, he concluded that I had clinical malaria. The secondary diagnosis was food poisoning. He left and returned with two shots: one was for the malaria and one was for the fever. He said that within fifteen minutes of the injections, I would be as good as new.

Miraculously, he was right. The fever went away and besides being dehydrated and a bit weak, I was much better. In addition to the shots, I received two kinds of pills to be taken over the next five days.

Unlike in Sharm, where I had to wait for the food poisoning to run its course, this illness only lasted hours. That was the good news. The bad news was that I missed an epic day of safari as captured by Ms. TPOL’s pic below. I’m not posting all of them because it’s too annoying to revisit what I missed!

The driver said it is extremely rare to encounter lions mating! Meanwhile, I was dying in the room.

Since the incident, I’ve spoken to my dad, a physician, my friend, a pediatrician, my safari driver, and locals. Each person has his or her opinion on whether it was malaria or food poisoning. The case for malaria is how quickly I felt better. The case against it is that the doctor said I had contracted it the night before. Per the CDC, symptoms don’t show up for at least seven days. It is possible that I was bit by a mosquito in previous stops, but it is weird that the doctor would say this.

For the doctors out there.

The only way to be sure is to test and continue to test my blood when I get home to confirm. I’m passing on that.

Although I got the vaccination for Typhoid and Yellow Fever before I came, I didn’t opt to take anti-malaria pills because of the side effects. ‎Even if it was just food poisoning, next time I’m taking the precaution by swallowing pills.

Malaria or food poisoning? Either way, it was awful.

TPOL’s TIP: If you’re going to get malaria, get it in Kenya. The house-call and injections were $25.

20 COMMENTS

  1. What injection could stop food poisoning effects that fast? I’d love to know. My wife has intermittent problems during travels.

    • I can’t read doctors handwriting easily, but the first two items in the med list seem to say stat, and list m (as in ml etc) whereas the other three are pills. If anyone can figure out the actual medications listed, you would have your answer.

  2. He gave you a lot of anti-inflammatories, an antibiotic (cipro) and anti-acid. Nothing for malaria. The symptoms for malaria would have returned right away. Even so, you need to get tested when you return home. Malaria is not like a stomach bug, so it will not go away even if you treat it.

    Next time, take the malarone. None to minimal side effects and manageable dosing schedule.

  3. We regularly travel in malarial areas. Yes, the side effects of some drugs can be scary but contracting malaria is too horrible! Best anti malarial with fewest side effects that we use is 100 mg. Doxycycline daily. Check the CDC for start and end times. Its much cheaper than malarone and doesnt have the weird side effects.
    Sorry for your GI issues…it goes with the travel territory

  4. The second med on the list (Inj artemether) is an antimalarial drug, although I’m not sure how effective it would be without a follow up course of oral antimalarial meds. Interesting to see clinical protocols followed in other countries!

    • Which I did not take, I believe the oral ones were just antibiotics. As a lawyer, my assumption is that the hotel just wants to cover all bases so they just injected me with everything. But, if this was food poisoning, how could an injection cure that? I mean it broke the fever but also restored my strength.

  5. Good point, legal cover would be a consideration here. If you took the cipro (as advised at no.4), that’s an antibiotic that would’ve covered food poisoning/gastroenteritis. In any case, glad you recovered swiftly!

  6. You seem to get food poisoning symptoms a lot. Who gets food poisoning in Prague or Atlanta? If this is a regular occurrence that also happens at home get checked out for something else. Data point: I had an undiagnosed rumbling appendix that caused pretty violent and really unpleasant food poisoning like symptoms once or twice a year for a number of years. Only when I ended up in hospital was the cause realized and solved (appendectomy).

    • I did obviously. Prague, I was living there. Atlanta, it was either the fat Tuesday slushy alcohol drink or the sushi. On the contrary, I’ve been to 97 countries and haven’t had issue eating everything and anything in most. So I’m not buying your diagnosis.

  7. Gonna chime in here and say I’m a fan. TPOL you write a little differently than others (and sometimes I’d love for you to explain a little more) but I find the blog very enjoyable.

    • Thank you. And happy to explain whatever details I leave out. Sometime I presume people read every post from the beginning of time.

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