Wednesday, February 22, 2006
7 News Investigations: Blackwater Fever
It was a terrible form of malaria that killed two men. Turning their internal organs black. In south Florida we have almost wiped malaria out but now the concern -- it's spreading around us and could hit us. As Patrick Fraser reports its why some people are saying its time to do something about this foreign fever.
WSVN--It was October on the northern coast of Haiti...
Ingrid Hackenbruch was on vacation with her husband Hans Peter.
Ingrid Hackenbruch: "He loved Haiti. He absolutely adored that country."
Also in that area at the same time, Christopher Evans, who went to school in South Florida. The two men did not meet each other, but within a few days they would meet the same fate.
Ingrid Hackenbruch: "That Thursday he went into shock and once you go into shock... it's fatal."
Both men had contracted a horribly severe form of malaria. Their urine and their organs turned black.
Hans Peter was flown to Jackson Memorial hospital, but it was too late. According to his autopsy, he had multi-organ failure.
Probably from a deadly form of malaria called Blackwater Fever.
Ingrid Hackenbruch: "You know there has never been a mention of blackwater fever but the fact that his urine was so dark --- and turned into like I said a coca-cola color -- yeah maybe it was blackwater fever."
Christoper had no idea he had contracted the deadly form of malaria. He flew to Toronto, Canada to visit a brother, and passed away there.
Two men dying in a terrible way... But in a very common way.
Dr. Gio Baracco: "It is a huge health problem globally."
Dr. Phil Lounibos: "Among the diseases transmitted by insects malaria is far and away the biggest killer there is no competitors out there."
In fact in Africa, malaria kills a million people a year.
It has been wiped out in the U.S.
But now it's spreading. In particular, in Haiti.
Patrick Fraser: "But how does that affect us? In the U.S. we have eliminated malaria. We usually don't have to worry about it. But that's the problem; because we don't see it, we don't look for it."
Dr. Fermin Leguen: "A problem we might have in America is because the disease is no longer endemic in the United States. The physicians don't see malaria cases very often so it might not even be detected..."
We have had two malaria outbreaks in South Florida in the last ten years. Not like Blackwater Fever, mild versions. Like the one Robert Woods got hit with.
Robert Woods: "Water falling off my face and felt real bad."
In fact when most people first contract malaria... They think they have a cold or the flu. That's what Hans Peter thought.
Ingrid Hackenbruch: "The friday before he had a little bit of fever and a bit of upset stomach .. those were the first symptons."
And in most cases the fever subsides. The malaria is not deadly but a million times a year it is..
And in South Florida -- where thousands of people a year fly in from places like Haiti and the Americas -- many passengers have the potential to spread the disease.
Dr. Gio Baracco: "A person that has malaria cannot give it to another person directly --- but rather the mosquitos are going to come and bite an infected person then carry the parasite around and then bite another person and infect that person."
And as more countries like Haiti get hit with malaria. As more people travel from country to country... The risk to the U.S. increases.
Dr. Phil Lounibos: "It's inevitable I think with the number of people travelling."
But we don't have to be at risk.
Ingrid Hackenbruch: "It's a treatable disease. It's not difficult. I don't think it's going to cost too much money ... and it would save so many lives."
Ironically Hans Peter had spent much of his life trying to eliminate AIDS in Haiti. Now his wife wants to try to eliminate the disease that they never thought would kill him.
Ingrid Hackenbruch: "Patrick as far as I am concerned, I am going to try my best -- being the widow of my beloved husband -- to really see if we can have an eradication program for Haiti. Because if malaria goes untreated you die."
Wipe out a disease which can turn your organs black, not just to protect the people of Haiti, but to protect us as well.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: