Pakenham man contracts Japanese encephalitis from mosquito bite in Bali, loses memory
A MOSQUITO bite during a dream holiday in Bali has robbed a man of his memory.
Mark Schroeder, 45, was infected with the rare and deadly Japanese encephalitis, a virus never seen in Victoria.
Fatal in up to 30 per cent of cases and causing long-term brain damage in half of those infected, it attacked the areas of Mr Schroeder’s brain involved in short-term memory.
The self-employed plasterer, from Pakenham, spent seven days in rural Bali and returned home on January 2.
Flu-like symptoms worsened over the following days, and a GP feared he may have contracted dengue fever, typhoid or malaria.
But when partner Ann-Marie Freeman woke on January 5, she was stunned to see him still sitting on the couch — exactly as she had left him the previous night — staring at his dead mobile phone.
Fearing the worst, she called an ambulance.
He spent seven weeks in Monash Medical Centre.
At one stage he was so ill a poster reminding him who and where he was, and what day it was, was put by his bed.
But even with frequent reassurances, he suffered delusions that he was abandoned and lost in Indonesia or India.
“We would explain to him that he was in Melbourne, in hospital, and reorient him,” Ms Freeman said.
“But with no short-term plavix 75 mg memory, five minutes after you’d given him the reassurance that he was home and safe he would forget and go straight back into anxiety.”
Doctors don’t know when, or if, he will fully recover.
While Mr Schroeder can recall things from his childhood, he has difficulty remembering events and conversations from just hours earlier, making his return to work uncertain.
“I worry that I don’t have a memory,” he told the Herald Sun.
“It is very hazy … I can remember some things, then others I think I remember I am not sure of,” he said.
“I just doubt everything … I have lost my memory,” he said.
Almost unheard of in Australia, the virus can be transmitted only by a rare type of mosquito which must have bitten a pig that was carrying the virus.
Mr Schroeder returned home last Thursday, where Ms Freeman will care for him as his rehabilitation continues.
“He’s not necessarily likely to make a full recovery, given that it has been at least six weeks and he is still significantly affected,” Southern Health’s Dr Ian Woolley said.
“He will, at best, need a long period of recovery.”