Island fever, medically known as scrub typhus, is a serious illness and, untreated, has a mortality rate as high as 30%. Symptoms include an extremely high fever, accompanied by a severe headache. In some cases, island fever may also affect the central nervous system & cause confusion, speech difficulties, or hearing problems.
Expatriates living on islands, like Malta, are particularly susceptible to island fever so it’s important to self-diagnose. But feeling hot with a headache is pretty common during a Maltese summer, so before visiting your doctor, here’s a quick self diagnosis for island fever.
Start with a quick analysis of your recent medical history answering “yes” or “no” to these 3 questions:
1. Is it more than three months since you were last out of Malta?
2. Have you had any recent dealings with a government department?
3. Are you currently having any building or alterations made to your home?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions you may well have island fever so check for further symptoms of confusion, speech difficulties, or hearing problems. Have you asked a third party in Malta any of the following questions?
1. Why hasn’t it been done yet? (answer triggered confusion)
2. How can you say that that’s what I asked for? (answer triggered speech difficulties)
3. It can’t be done until when? (answer triggered hearing difficulties)
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these, you can be fairly confident that your self-diagnosis is correct and and that you are, indeed, suffering from island fever.
The cure for island fever is a simple seven day course of antibiotics that must be taken abroad. It is important you complete the course even if you start to feel better after a couple of days away. Expatriates who fail to take the complete course abroad have a 30% chance of leaving Malta permanently.
So if you’re an expat in Malta, and suffering from the symptoms of island fever, take a week’s holiday abroad. Recharge your batteries. And then come back to enjoying life on the island.
Will Leader is a founder of expatsmalta.com.
Photo: Walter Lo Cascio
Carmel Watson says
What an informative article. Amazingly, I now realise that I have indeed suffered from ‘Island fever’ myself, on several ocassions since arriving on the island. The worst bout was brought about following a succesion of visits to the ADT office. As well as the headaches and rise in body temperature, I also experienced the need to scream at a pitch loud enough to smash glasses and to tear my hair out by the roots…this was possibly a condition brought about by the heat emitting from my body!
Fortunately, I did leave the island for various short breaks, without even realising that this was the cure…phew, that was a close shave!
Nigel Leyson says
Hi Will, Your Scrub Typhus is a brilliant analysis of a similar condition: Cabin Fever Syndrome (CFS) first identified in northern Canada during the early 19th century by fur trappers and hunters who got caught out during the long winters up there. I, too, suffer the same condition but it takes me 2 years to save up (due to poor salary) to go on holiday. Last week, I managed to escape to the Austria Tyrol for a great cure. (So, OK, the Austrians don’t have a sense of humour or a decent menu) but check out the rest. The trouble is coming back. I’ve got the blues and need another trip out o’ here – or apply for Austrian citizenship. If you guys have the wherewithall to ‘escape’ after only 3 months, hats off to you. Maybe, Will, you could work a miracle in the jobs department so I can report further on this condition and its cure? By the way, are there any more medical conditions that we need to know about?
A friend and part-time ex-pat survives extremely well by taking a mixture of one part Malta to one part south coast of England.
In each location, symptoms vanish and he is ‘glad to be back at home’. After a few weeks, he can look forward to ‘going back home’.
I am still smiling at the ‘head banging on the Parliament building suggestion’. At least in Malta, they would see and hear you!
Excellent blog, by the way!
the symptoms sound familiar but I don’t think I’m affected at the moment ( not buying or modernizing a house , don’t drive a foreign registered car , don’t need a work permit yet). My question is : can you recommend a prophylactic treatment ? Maybe banging my head for 30 minutes against the side wall of the parliament building or trying the cross the Strand 1o times on a pedestrian crossing or trying to pay a bus ride with a 10 € note ?
Thanks for discovering this so far unreported condition.