Natalie Gulbis contracts malaria
By Torleif Sorenson on 3/13/13
The good news is that LPGA star Natalie Gulbis is expected to recover from malaria, which she contracted during the LPGA's recent swing through Asia and the Pacific Rim. ChannelNewsAsia.com also reported that World Golf HOF'er Se Ri Pak and tournament staff at the HSBC Women's Championship also contracted the mosquito-borne disease, which was reported elsewhere as flu-like symptoms.

MedPedia describes malaria as a devastating infectious disease that destroys host red blood cells. Even in the 21st century, an estimated two million persons die of malaria each year, although hundreds of millions more suffer non-lethal infections. Prevention of malaria has extended from research into vaccines and post-infection medicines to use of mosquito-netting, although poverty and regional infrastructure issues have not yet wiped out the disease.

The curious part of this story is why the LPGA went to the Hillary Clinton School of Journalism in this case, trying to manage this very newsworthy story. This originally wasn't widely reported, but on February 28, famous golf instructor Butch Harmon tweeted the basic fact:
The next day, Golf Channel's Randall Mell tweeted what he was told by Gulbis' agent:
We now know that David Livingston, IMG Golf's senior vice president, lied through his teeth or otherwise had no clue what he was saying. Also, the LPGA was deliberately trying to clamp down on the story; Harmon confirmed as much in a March 4 tweet:
In a press release, the LPGA and IMG finally acknowledged the facts and said that Gulbis is expected to be back to normal by the end of March. In the meantime, Gulbis's official web site has been taken down. This is a very curious development; Suzanne Nielsen, Ed.D., an adjunct professor of communication at Augsburg College, has one theory why:
"For some people, malaria still has a stigma attached to it. When missionaries who serve overseas contracted malaria or other exotic-sounding infectious disease, Americans back home who hear about it can sometimes be scared by that."
Whatever Livingston's reasoning, in the end, honesty is still the best policy. Both Livingston and the LPGA would do well to remember this — and to avoid misleading and deceiving golf fans and the public in the future when dealing with crisis situations.


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Cover image via U.S. Centers for Disease Control


[ comments ]
mjaber says:
I spent some time in Kingston, Jamaica for work a couple years back. I was advised that malaria was prevalent there, and I went to the doctor and got the vaccine. Why didn't she? I don't recall there being any side-effects, and it was just a couple pills. It seems odd to me that someone wouldn't have advised the golfers, and that they wouldn't have taken the appropriate steps to insure they did not contract the disease.
3/13/13
 
Duke of Hazards says:
okay, so I get that your political views skew heavily in one direction and it comes out in your editorials, but nowhere in your piece is it supported that the LPGA went all Benghazi other than the hearsay in Harmon's tweet.
3/13/13
 
mantajim says:
@Duke . . .Do what?
3/13/13
 
srogers13 says:
Duke, in Torleif's defense, after Gulbis and Park withdrew, and several other volunteers and support staff got sick, the LPGA was very adamant that there was not an outbreak of malaria.
3/13/13
 
mmontisano says:
in Livingston's defense, they were probably still trying to diagnose it because it could have potentially been dengue fever as well. and Butch doesn't know what he's talking about because the doctors in Singapore are very good.
3/13/13
 
Matt F says:
@badcaddy - 1000 points! Unfortunately, there's a view here in the States that medicine practiced Asia/PacRim is inferior to that practiced here...I beg to differ, I think it's the other way around. But I could be a bit biased coming from the region.
3/14/13
 
Kurt the Knife says:
Hilary Clinton is a journalist?
3/14/13
 
Matt McGee says:
More political references. Great.
3/14/13
 
Kurt the Knife says:
BOB DOLE!
3/14/13
 
mmontisano says:
@Matt F, it's definitely cheaper here!!!
3/14/13
 
Torleif Sorenson says:
Matt F and BadCaddy, I'm with you - I think it was a bit unfair for Harmon to blanket-criticize *all* medical doctors in the PacRim; the statistics about malaria in that region were probably the basis for his comment. Not only are there plenty of excellent doctors in that region, but also some very competent medical researchers.
3/14/13
 
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