Despite earlier denials, Natalie Gulbis’ agent confirmed on Wednesday that the LPGA star does, indeed, have malaria. Gulbis withdrew from the RR Donnelley Founders Cup event in Phoenix and a statement was released shortly thereafter.
It is believed she contracted the disease in Singapore during the LPGA’s Asian swing. She withdrew from the HSBC Women's Champions with what were, at the time, described as “flu-like symptoms.” At the time her spokespeople made it abundantly clear that there was no diagnosis of malaria.
That has changed. According to today’s statement, Gulbis is "expected to be at full strength in three weeks. LPGA doctors have been consulted and believe she is on appropriate medications, under great care, and her prognosis is excellent."
At the tournament site, Scottsdale Healthcare will be providing blood screenings for any players wishing to be tested.
This has the potential to put a black eye on the LPGA’s recent expansion into foreign markets such as Thailand and Singapore as well as the non-sanctioned events in China and elsewhere. Malaria kills over 650,000 people annually according to the World Health Organization. Most of those deaths are children from poor countries.
And while American healthcare facilities are equipped to treat the disease, it is no small matter. According to the CDC, malaria must be aggressively treated and, even in the U.S., is potentially fatal.