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I have a feeling they've badly misquoted him from when he was ill with the neck injury from Syriana or misplaced the quote from Kearns. Otherwise, I can't remember him ever saying this about malaria. Or did I miss this?
Clooney speaks out about malaria
February 16 2011 at 10:34am
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George Clooney is used to creating a buzz no matter where he goes. However, on a recent trip to Sudan he experienced a buzz he could have done without.
'I was so sick with malaria, I didn't care if I lived or died'
The Hollywood heartthrob was bitten by a mosquito and contracted malaria while in Africa working on his Enough project, in a bid to put an end to genocide.
“I guess the mosquito in Juba looked at me and thought I was the bar,” he quipped. But while Clooney ironically joked catching malaria “was good fun” the disease is deadly and often fatal. In fact, it is the fifth-leading cause of death around the world, according to the US-based Centre For Disease Control And Prevention.
The 49-year-old is not the first celebrity to pick up malaria. Chelsea footballer Didier Drogba recently fell foul of the disease when in the Ivory Coast, while Cheryl Cole contracted it on a trip to Tanzania. The Girls Aloud singer and X Factor star was originally misdiagnosed and ended up in hospital after collapsing on a shoot.
“I am pretty much evangelised now when it comes to warning people of the dangers of malaria,” says Joe Kearns from Dublin, who picked up the disease while working for Concern in Ethiopia.
Like Cheryl Cole, Kearns was also misdiagnosed and ended up in hospital in a critical condition.
“The first thing is it feels very like a flu,” he says. “You get aches and pains in your bones and you have a temperature and you feel crap. It was almost two years since I had come home from the zone that had malaria so it didn't trigger any alarm bells.”
While the symptoms usually take a period of between two weeks and several months to appear, in extreme cases can appear up to 30-40 years later.
“I went into hospital and they sent me home with no idea what was wrong with me,” says Kearns. “I was getting sicker and sicker and after about 10 days I was hospitalised again. My wife was told they didn't think I would live. I had had three blood transfusions, I was unable to eat and I weighed 8.5 stone - I normally weigh about 11 stone. I was so sick I actually didn't care whether I lived or died.”
Luckily, his brother, a doctor, had a tissue sample sent to the Tropical Medicine Clinic in the Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda after recalling Joe had been in Africa. That is when he was finally diagnosed as suffering from malaria.
“Basically speaking, Irish-trained doctors are not sufficiently trained in considering tropical medicine in their consultations, and that's the same whether they are GPs or a hospital doctor,” says Dr Graham Fry, Medical Director at the Tropical Medical Bureau. “It takes an exceptional doctor to consider outside a box and consider a person's geographical history.”
The symptoms of the mosquito-born infectious disease, widespread in parts of the Americas, Asia and Africa, include fever and headache, but in severe cases can lead to hallucinations, coma and death.
Indeed, former No Frontiers presenter Kathryn Thomas experienced “hellish visions” and couldn't feel her legs after catching malaria while filming an adventure special in Papua New Guinea.
But just like George Clooney, Cheryl Cole, Kathryn Thomas and many others who catch the disease, Joe Kearns had taken what he thought were the proper precautions.
“I went out to Africa for two years and beforehand got a lot of medical advice from Concern,” he says. “We were told to take tablets while we were there and I was very diligent about making sure I took my tablets. I was not sick at all with malaria when I was in Africa. But the tablets don't guarantee that you won't get it, as in my case. The only way to be sure you don't get it is to ensure you don't get bitten. If you take the tablets you are improving your chances but it is only improving your chances.”
In fact, according to Dr Fry of the Tropical Medical Bureau, tablets only offer 95% protection.
In Africa, it is estimated that two children die from malaria every minute. Every year there are about 250 million malaria cases and nearly one million deaths, according to the World Health Organisation. But malaria is also a growing phenomenon in Ireland.
The National Surveillance Centre report on Notifiable Diseases issued earlier this year shows 82 reported cases of malaria in 2010 in comparison to 90 cases for the previous 12 months.
“Up until four or five years ago there was only about 20 cases every year in Ireland,” says Dr Fry. “However, over the last five years that has shot up into the 80s and 90s.
“Over half of these are from people who have come to live in Ireland over the last 10 years from Africa. They have had a couple of children they have settled in to Ireland and they now want to go back to their home country in West Africa to visit family and friends.
“They don't think they are going to be at risk because they are going home, but they are not. Ireland is now their home so they have lost the antibodies that protect them.”
With the numbers of malaria cases on the rise, the Tropical Medical Bureau is urging Irish travellers to be more cautious and to acquire the appropriate vaccinations before travelling to malaria-prone areas.
“I don't think Irish people are aware of the risks,” says Dr Fry. “Reading about George Clooney or Cheryl Cole people think they must have done something really odd and it is never going to happen to them. People never think it is going to happen to them, because it always happen to someone else.”
George Clooney and Cheryl Cole also probably thought it always happens to someone else, but like an increasing number of people they were wrong. Luckily for them the disease was diagnosed early enough before they ended up being dead wrong. - Irish Independent
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