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LA MARQUE, Texas -- Malaria was the cause of death for a 36-year-old sailor who died aboard a ship sailing to the Galveston area last week, according to Dr. Mark Guidry of the Galveston County Health Authority. The man who was returning from a trip to West Africa, had symptoms suggestive of Lassa fever and malaria.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed on Sept. 10 that tests from Wednesdays autopsy indicate the death was due to malaria infection. The autopsy was performed by Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Pustilnik, a UTMB associate professor of pathology, and Dr. Judy Aronson, also of UTMB.
The ship which has been in voluntary quarantine offshore has been given permission to proceed to its original destination.
Guidry said malaria is common in many developing countries and travelers who visit these areas risk getting malaria. About 1,200 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year. Cases in the United States are typically among travelers and immigrants returning from malaria-risk areas, many from sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
Dr. Dana Beckham, chief epidemiologist for the Galveston County Health District, says the district played an important role in the investigation. Beckham says, We played a support role to many agencies by developing a risk assessment being completed by crew members onboard the ship, and monitoring the health of the remaining crew during this voluntary quarantine.
Multiple agencies worked together during the course of the investigation, including the Galveston County Health District, the University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services, and the CDC. These agencies work regularly with hospitals and medical providers in the community to protect the publics health. The Overseas Shipholding Group, Inc. owners of the ship also worked cooperatively with authorities involved in the investigation.
Source: Galveston County Health District