“Damn, I can’t believe I got malaria again!”
That’s what I was thinking last week when I recognized the symptoms: fatigue, nausea, headache, pain at the base of the spine and lower back. I flashed back to 1991 when I first got the disease in the Congo and spent 2 weeks on my back with IV needles in my arm to force fluids into my body. “I’m so thirsty I could die.” Literally.
Apparently the high-voltage mosquito-blasting tennis racket I’ve been using didn’t manage to zap all the little bastards! So wondering what 2 decades of drug research has yielded I asked my UNPeacekeeper friends in Liberiawhatthe standard expat cure is these days. The answer was a loud and resounding “Artemisinin!” Apparently this centuries-old Chinese herbal medicine has been keeping SouthEast Asians alive for many years but was relatively unknown in the west until recently. Or perhaps we can’t believe in anything that doesn’t come from Big Pharma?
I picked up a 3-day dose for $12 from the local pharmacy, immediately popped 2 of the 12 pills, and went to bed wondering if I could sleep with this horribly throbbing headache and seemingly compressed spine. 8 hours later I woke up feeling completely normal, rested, and ready to fight my way into a Monrovian taxi! I can’t tell you how different this experience was from the one in Congo in 1991. My first thought was how Big Pharma is missing a real opportunity here, but my friend Talli educated me how the Gates Foundation, UC Berkeley, and Big Pharma have a project underway to create a synthetic version of the drug for pennies per dose. Malaria is the #1 killer in the world, far surpassing HIV-Aids, with 500 million infections annually annually.
I can tell you that Artemisinin works better than both Fansidar and Electric Liberian Tennis Rackets!