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Boston malaria survivor sheds light on deadly disease

Dr. Karen Weber survived malaria in the late 1980s.Greenfest Boston

Dr. Karen L. Weber, Executive Director of the Foundation for a Green Future and Coordinator of Boston GreenFest, shared with Metro what it's like to endure and survive malaria.

On Wednesday, Massachusetts General Hospital announced that a man who recently traveled from Liberia had contracted malaria. The hospital was also monitoring him for Ebola.

Metro: When and where did you contract malaria?

Weber: It's very vivid. I lived for four years in West Africa. I was about 30 years old. I was doing doctoral work… Mosquitos are rampant, so you never know when infection happens. There is no real way of protecting yourself.

Metro: What did it feel like?

Weber: There were phases of cold sweats and feeling really hot. You have to change your sheets three times a day; you're just losing so much water. Your body is just white, and you feel every muscle that you didn't know you had. It feels like a pounding, almost like a migraine behind your eyes. You feel weakness. You feel pain. It just comes on all at once.

Metro: How long did it take to recover?

Weber:About six to eight days. I had an IV and malaria pills.

Metro: What was the worst part of the experience?

Weber: Realizing that this thing had just come onto me so quickly, not to mention being so far away from home. I thought, 'How am I going to handle this?'

Metro: Do you think more needs to be done in malaria affected countries?

Weber: Definitely. We ramped up all the money for AIDS but the things that are regularly keeping people from being healthy on a regular basis are malaria and cholera.

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