Didier Drogba will lead the line for Chelsea against Fulham tonight, despite suffering from malaria.
Drogba has been told he may have been carrying the disease for weeks, possibly even months, but started a 48-hour course of medication yesterday which will eradicate it.
Chelsea’s medical staff are confident that the 32-year-old Ivory Coast star will make a full recovery and that it will not return.
Drogba was diagnosed with malaria on Monday, following a blood test carried out after he reported another fever over the weekend.
He was not well enough to start at Liverpool on Sunday but told manager Carlo Ancelotti to name him among the substitutes and came on for the second half to lift his team, although they lost 2-0.
On Monday, he was forced to leave early from a Nike promotion in London to visit his doctor.
Drogba has been tested in the past for malaria and other tropical diseases but they came back negative because the parasitic activity in the blood goes up and down.
‘For a month, Didier has had this difficulty to train,’ said Ancelotti. ‘He suffered. He didn’t feel good. He didn’t have the power or the ability to train. I think he lost some of his condition. He was unselfish to play when he was not at 100 per cent.
‘He had some blood tests before this and it was not so clear. Then he had the tests on Monday and
they showed this kind of virus.
‘Now he we know this is the problem. The tests showed he has malaria. It was serious once but now it’s a bit different. You can treat it and move on very quickly. It’s over now. He is OK. He will play against Fulham.’
Although modern medicine can treat malaria quickly and efficiently, it is still a huge killer, responsible for the deaths of nearly a million people a year, including many children.
Congo DR striker Lomana LuaLua described the horrifying effects of malaria after he contracted the disease five years ago.
He said: ‘I collapsed, I was paralysed down one side and began losing consciousness. I was hallucinating, imagining people were chasing me. I thought I was going to die.’
Drogba is among several footballers who teamed up this year to support FIFA and former Cameroon striker Roger Milla in a campaign to end malaria deaths in Africa by 2015.
Last month, the Chelsea striker was in his native Ivory Coast, deep in the malaria zone, but his club claim he was showing symptoms before that particular trip to watch his national team play.
Chelsea suspect the disease, transmitted by mosquito bites, may have been dormant in his body for some time.
After his return from Africa last month, Drogba missed the goalless draw against Aston Villa and the Champions League trip to Spartak Moscow.
He played 90 minutes against both Wolves and Blackburn, came off after 76 minutes in the return against Spartak and started on the bench at Anfield on Sunday.
Ancelotti expects the striker, who scored 37 goals last season, to be operating at full power again very soon.
He also shrugged off questions about signing Fernando Torres, who scored twice against his team on Sunday. ‘When you have Drogba and Anelka, it’s difficult to think about Torres,’ said Ancelotti.
‘The day Drogba is not able to play and maintain this level of condition, we can think about buying another striker like Torres. But when Drogba is not able Torres will be old.’
Nicolas Anelka may miss tonight’s game with a back problem and Alex is doubtful with a knee injury.
A Doctor’s Diagnosis
Because Didier Drogba spent time in Ivory Coast as a child, he will have developed a degree of immunity to malaria, which is why his symptoms are not life-threatening.
Living in England will have reduced his immunity and made him vulnerable when he returned to a region where malaria is prevalent. But the strongest symptoms he will have felt are a high fever and severe headache. That explains why he missed matches with a fever and it will have affected his performance.
But as long he feels OK today, there is no reason he cannot play against Fulham.
Malaria is not contagious.