FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution midfielder Sainey Nyassi can pinpoint exactly when his battle with malaria started.
Nyassi traveled to Burkina Faso to feature for Gambia in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Ouagadougou on Oct. 9. As he and his teammates prepared for the match against Burkina Faso -- a 3-1 defeat -- Nyassi said he likely contracted malaria while passing the time before the match.
“I still remember that there was a time that we were sitting outside by the pool and I got bit by a mosquito,” Nyassi told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “At that time, we decided to go in, but I came back and got sick.”
Malaria doesn't ravage the body instantaneously with symptoms such as headache, fever, nausea, sweats and the chills. It usually takes between seven and 30 days for the disease to incubate within an infected person's blood stream, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In Nyassi's case, he started to cope with the onset of those symptoms around the time he and his teammates traveled to New Jersey for the season-ending 2-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls on Oct. 21. Nyassi played the full match before returning back to the Boston area to encounter a series of troubling symptoms.
“I remember our game against New York, that's when it started,” Nyassi said. “I started to feel cold when I got back home. I turned my heat on and I felt myself getting cold. I started having headaches and body aches. At that time, I decided to go to the hospital.”
Nyassi spent approximately one week in Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston as he received the necessary treatment. As he wrestled with the symptoms, he leaned on his family and his friends for support. The guidance of his twin brother and Seattle midfielder Sanna, a two-time survivor of malaria, aided Sainey as he waded through the harrowing times.
“He helped me through it,” Nyassi said. “He told me that he survived it in Africa, so now that I'm in America, I didn't have anything to worry about.”
A strict regimen of medicine and rest facilitated Nyassi's steady recovery, though he is not quite back to full fitness. He has not participated in training sessions over the past two weeks and he said he is waiting for doctor's clearance before returning to extensive physical activity.
Despite those continued complications, Nyassi has come through the worst of the malady and should be fine by the start of preseason.
“It shook him up a little bit,” Revolution vice president of player personnel Michael Burns said. “He was explaining to me how he felt. Obviously, it's not uncommon there, but he's on the mend. He has plenty of time to recover and he's doing a lot better.”
The episode serves as a cautionary tale for Nyassi and for any other American-based players who travel to Africa. Malaria isn't native to the United States, but it is commonly found in tropical and subtropical areas. Approximately 1,500 travelers return to the United States with the disease each year.
Most travelers do their best to avoid contracting the illness by taking preventative drugs before visiting a malaria-ravaged area. Nyassi didn't adhere to the prescribed regimen before traveling to Burkina Faso and subsequently contracted malaria on his travels, but he did receive the proper care to combat the problem upon returning to the United States.
Now that the worst of his illness is behind him, Nyassi said he is thankful that he overcame his bout with malaria.
“Malaria is something that is very serious,” Nyassi said. “It is no joke. It can kill people. I was lucky to survive. It was almost a terrible situation.”