Similar symptoms could see malaria pose more of a threat than Covid-19
Pretoria - Malaria may pose a more immediate threat than Covid-19 because some of the symptoms of the two infections are similar, said co-founder of Goodbye Malaria, Sherwin Charles.
He said malaria proved to be deadlier faster and it was therefore essential to test for both infections.
“When comparing both diseases, malaria is the more immediate threat and should be tested for and treated first. That is not to say that you should disregard any Covid-19 precautions in the process, but malaria needs to be ruled out first.”
Charles said the most common symptoms of Covid-19 were a fever, dry cough and tiredness, whereas the most common symptoms of malaria were a fever, chills and a headache. While there are many other symptoms that could present themselves, the two diseases shared fever.
South Africa is not considered high risk for malaria, although it is still an epidemic in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.
Deputy director of Epidemiology at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Professor Lucille Blumberg, said malaria should be considered in any patient with flu-like illness that got progressively worse over a few days, where an alternative diagnosis was not made.
“These cases are often misdiagnosed as influenza, viral hepatitis or bacterial sepsis, and the mortality rate is high because of missed or delayed diagnosis. The problem is, everyone is so fixated on Covid-19 that malaria symptoms are being missed.”
She said while many holidaymakers had the luxury of taking precautionary medication, millions of Africans were not so lucky.
Recently, the University of Pretoria has, through groundbreaking research, discovered new potent chemical compounds that showed potential as candidates for both the treatment and elimination of malaria.
The breakthrough involves the identification of unique compounds that are able to kill several stages of the malaria-causing parasite and can block the transmission of the parasite between humans and mosquitoes.
Biochemistry and South African Research Chair in Sustainable Malaria Control, Professor Lyn-Marie Birkholtz, was part of an international team that published this discovery in the journal Nature Communications this month.