Eight more participants in Liberia mission show symptoms of malaria
September 12, 2003
Another eight members of Joint Task Force-Liberia came down with malaria symptoms Wednesday and Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to 51 since the first ones came to light last weekend.
The additional patients — five Marines, one sailor, one soldier, and a civilian — were being treated aboard the USS Iwo Jima off the Liberian coast, according to a news release from Air Force Capt. Richard Komurek, a spokesman aboard the ship.
At the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., 20 of the 41 patients who were being treated there were discharged from the hospital and are now being treated as outpatients, according to a hospital release.
At Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, two Marines who had been listed in serious condition with malaria were improving, Landstuhl spokeswoman Marie Shaw said Thursday. One was moved from the intensive care unit into a medical ward, Shaw said, and the other was still in ICU but “making remarkable progress.”
Of the eight new patients, all but the sailor and one Marine had blood tests indicating the presence of malaria parasites. Due to their symptoms, all eight were treated for malaria, Komurek said.
As of Thursday afternoon, two Marines remained under medical care aboard the ship for mild symptoms. The other six patients were fully recovered, Komurek said.
All the patients are male. Almost all are members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit Quick Reaction Force from Camp Lejeune, N.C. At least 11 were confirmed as having malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that can be deadly.
The troops were among about 150 troops working in Monrovia, Liberia, as part of a multinational peacekeeping effort.
“All the troops who went ashore received anti-malaria medication and it is believed that the majority of them were taking the medication as directed,” Komurek said. “Some of the Marines that were ashore were physically seen taking their pills by their superiors and yet some of them still contracted malaria.”
The only Marines currently ashore are some liaison officers with ECOMIL forces and those assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. There have been no cases of malaria among these Marines, Komurek said.
Komurek said Navy medical personnel are examining why about one-third of the troops who went ashore contracted malaria. It is possible that this particular strain of malaria is unusually strong, Komurek said, or that it may be resistant to the medication the Marines were taking.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.