Page last updated at 09:50 GMT, Thursday, 4 June 2009 10:50 UK

Fogle's fight with flesh-eating bug


Fogle: 'main concern was facial disfigurement'

TV personality Ben Fogle has spoken of the his battle with the "wily" parasite which left him with a potentially fatal flesh-eating condition last year.

The 35-year-old is to be regularly monitored by doctors for the next few years to ensure the leishmaniasis infection - which he contracted after being bitten by a sand fly in the Peruvian jungle - does not come back.

He has just received the all clear after needing a second round of intensive treatment to kill the bug.

Fogle, an increasingly high-profile adventurer who has appeared in several BBC series, said it had been "very difficult" to plunge from the peak of physical fitness to the depths of illness with a condition which can cause the internal organs to collapse.

When he became ill, he said he felt "scared , concerned, annoyed, frustrated".

"I travel a lot and I have always been very good at taking precautions while overseas.

"When you fall foul of some tropical lurgie it is worrying - especially when you don't understand what it is."


Initially, he thought it might be malaria.

"I had very much the same sort of symptoms - nausea, fatigue, diarrhoea - all the classic symptoms.

"But one of the things I am most proud of that over the last 15 years of extensive travel is that I am very good at taking my anti-malarias, so I was particularly annoyed with myself that I might have got malaria.

Suddenly we are in the position where we can jet off all over the world because of the rise of low-cost airlines
Ben Fogle

"However in retrospect it would probably have been slightly better than what it turned out to be.

"Not that much is known about leishmaniasis, but it can lead to quite nasty disfigurement and that was my main concern - the long-term effect it might have."

Ben, who first came to public attention in the BBC reality TV show Castaway, said: "I realised I had been very lucky in my trips around the world and that while I'd always taken precautions, I'd taken a lot for granted.

"I'm not sure there's more I could have done - sand flies are simply one of the perils of the Peruvian jungle.

"But I am more conscious now than ever of taking care of my health to avoid going through anything like that again."

Ben spent weeks in bed with the condition after returning from filming the BBC adventure series Extreme Dreams with a hole an inch wide in his arm.

The infection was treated with high-dose drugs taken intravenously for an hour every day, and his heart and blood were regularly tested.

The cure, he said, felt worse than the disease.

Fake medicines

Ben is currently backing a campaign by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) to encourage travellers to buy medication at home before travelling abroad.

Ben Fogle
Fogle was treated with strong intravenous drugs

A survey by the RPS suggested a significant minority of travellers were prepared to go off on exotic holidays without basic essentials - including anti-malaria tablets.

In addition almost one in five surveyed said they had bought medication abroad without professional advice purely because they thought they "recognised the packaging".

Ben said that, while having contracted a life-threatening condition while abroad, his principal concern was managing his allergies.

"I'm allergic to pollen and big cats so I always make sure that I have anti-histamine tablets with me.

"Suddenly we are in the position where we can jet off all over the world because of the rise of low-cost airlines. But some people don't even take their own specific medicines abroad.

"Language barriers can be immense and you may not understand what you are getting. And that's leaving aside the amount of fake medicine there is in some countries.

"My message is a simple one: get prepared before you go."

Ben is doing just that, as he prepares for his next trip.

"It is a bit like falling off a horse, you have to get straight back on it.

"I am travelling back to a tropical region in a couple of weeks and yes, I will go back with slight apprehension, but I think it is important not to give in to things like disease and parasites and just take precautions."

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