By: Cole Miller
A Lincoln man thought he caught the flu. Turns out, it was something far worse, and more exotic.
The sound of a snapping shutter is a familiar noise for Brian Lehmann. A freelance photojournalist and native of Lincoln, he recently spent three weeks in Brazil with journalism students from UNL. One of their assignments took them to a remote area in the rainforest to meet with oyster farmers.
"There's always a certain amount of unknown when you go some place like this, but this place, when I walked in, I knew immediately this was going to be the worst week of my life," Lehmann said.
And that's exactly what it turned out to be, thanks in part to swarms of mosquitos.
"I was bit hundreds of times," Lehmann said.
He returned home feeling just fine, but later says cold spells and 103 degree temperatures began setting in. Things only got worse from there.
"I was essentially just a zombie," Lehmann said. "I did not want to get out of bed. I was changing clothes 7 or 8 times a day because would sweat through everything."
That's when Lehmann says he went to the emergency room.
"This is not the flu," Lehmann remembers thinking. "This is probably malaria."
Blood work later revealed he indeed had malaria. The parasitic disease is found in infected mosquitos. Once inside the human body, it attacks red blood cells.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates one million people die from the disease each year, mostly in poverty stricken countries. Needless to say the next time Lehmann travels, he won't forget his malaria pills.
"The flu is nothing compared to malaria!"
The CDC says there are 300 to 500 million malaria cases worldwide each year. Doctors say many cases are preventable with proper medication.