- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Cerebral malaria was the cause of death for two men from South Africa whose bodies were found at a southwest Missouri motel where they had stopped during a motorcycle trip, health officials said Monday.

Gerrit Strydom, 45, and James Bethel, 44, died in early May of cerebral malaria, a non-communicable, treatable disease transmitted by an infected mosquito, said Tom Van De Berg, a forensic investigator for the Greene County medical examiner’s office.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the diagnosis, Van De Berg said. He said Bethel and Strydom likely had been infected at the same time in South Africa and died within hours of each other the night before their bodies were found May 9 in separate rooms.

The CDC referred calls to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which did not immediately return a call seeking comment late Monday.

The men had stopped in Springfield during their motorcycle trip from Chicago to California across historic Route 66.

“They flew into Chicago, and they had only actually spent a couple days on the road because they were feeling bad,” Van De Berg said. He said the two men had also been searching the Internet for their symptoms and had told their families back home they had not been feeling well.

“The symptoms started as soon as they got here, and they didn’t attribute it to malaria,” he said. One of the men may also have been experiencing symptoms shortly before leaving South Africa, he said.

Van De Berg would not say what symptoms the men had been experiencing but said they did not seek any medical attention in the Springfield area. Symptoms for malaria can include fever, dizziness, head and muscle aches. Van De Berg said malaria, which is treatable and preventable, becomes cerebral malaria when it gets to the brain and central nervous system. He said without treatment cerebral malaria is fatal.

Springfield police spokesman Lisa Cox said additional tests are also being done.


An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the name as Vandeberg instead of Van De Berg.

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