This story headlined in our morning paper about Puerto Plata vacation gone wrong. Not that I want to scare anyone as I am heading to Punta Cana myself in two weeks.
SJ Telegraph-Journal | Greater Saint John
As published on page A5 on April 1, 2005
Holiday turns hazardous
Saint John vacationers get malaria during visit to Dominican Republic
Glenn McGinley, back left, with some of his group of 16 Saint Johners who fell ill during a trip to the Dominican Republic last month. Three have been told they have malaria.
BY MAC TRUEMAN
Three Saint John-area residents have returned from a March break in the Dominican Republic to be told they have malaria.
"The vacation from hell" is how Glenn McGinley, of Quispamsis, describes the one-week trip that he and 15 other friends and family took to a resort in Puerto Plata, on the northern coast of the island, which they started March 4.
All 16 fell ill at some or other time that week with Norwalk-like diarrhea and vomiting.
He said that had Health Canada posted any malaria warning about the north-coast area, he and his group would have gone somewhere else, but there was none.
The page, at phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/… did warn Thursday about malaria in two east-coast areas. And it advised travellers to all parts of the Dominican Republic not to visit rural areas at night.
His wife, Mary-Beth McGinley, spends her nights in violent shivers while sweating profusely, he said.
"It's like something you would see in an old Vietnam War movie. It's scary. It was eight hours of that last evening."
Ms. McGinley said she got the news Wednesday from a doctor at Saint John Regional Hospital.
"She said, 'I have bad news. You have malaria.' "
She said the physician told her that a further six or seven Saint Johners had also been diagnosed with malaria this week after vacationing in the Dominican Republic.
"The public health nurse that I spoke to yesterday couldn't believe how many cases are popping up here in Saint John," the husband said.
But they have been given no further details about what strain of malaria this is.
Provincial Health and Wellness officials are treating these as suspected malaria cases while they wait for definitive blood-test results to come back from an Ontario laboratory.
The same with federal Health Canada staff, who say that to date there has been no evidence of a malaria outbreak at Puerto Plata. But department spokeswoman Aggie Adamczyk a warning may go up if the Saint John cases are confirmed.
Provincial health spokeswoman Krista Petersen emphasized in an interview Thursday that if this is malaria, it's not contagious without the presence of certain tropical breeds of mosquitoes.
"It's not like you have the flu and you might give it to your dad."
Mr. McGinley said the first of his party to be diagnosed with malaria at the Saint John Regional Hospital this week was his sister, who had been suffering with intestinal problems and headaches.
"Everybody passed it off as the flu. Then she got it so bad, she had to go to the hospital. She mentioned that she had visited the Dominican Republic two and a half weeks ago, and they automatically gave her the blood test for malaria. She tested positive."
The most recent diagnosis was the sister's boyfriend, "who received the news just minutes ago that he tested positive," Mr. McGinley said Thursday.
Mr. McGinley said he heard a report that there was a Norwalk-like illness in the area, but his travel agent told him on the day before his trip that there were no health threats in Puerto Plata.
But within two days of getting this reassurance, his group was vomiting, and so was a second group of 18 Saint Johners who flew down there on the same one-week package.
"There was a woman four or five months pregnant, who had to be wheeled to the plane in a wheelchair," Mr. McGinley said.