The National Institute for Communicable Diseases said it was mandatory to test anyone presenting with flu-like symptoms, especially those who live in a malaria endemic area or have travelled in those areas in the past six weeks.Picture: EPA
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases said it was mandatory to test anyone presenting with flu-like symptoms, especially those who live in a malaria endemic area or have travelled in those areas in the past six weeks.Picture: EPA

Worry over malaria cases being missed as symptoms are similar to those of Covid-19

By Tebogo Monama Time of article published Dec 14, 2020

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Johannesburg - Health professionals have been warned to be vigilant of malaria symptoms as they exhibit the same as those of Covid-19.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has warned that, with special attention being paid to Covid-19, malaria care was declining.

The NICD said: “The current focus on Covid-19 has led to malaria being missed. Early symptoms of malaria and Covid-19 are similarly non-specific – fever, headache, fatigue. More specific are muscle and joint pains.

“Symptoms also shared between these infections (are) respiratory difficulties, including Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.”

The institute said it was mandatory to test anyone presenting with flu-like symptoms, especially those who live in a malaria endemic area or have travelled in those areas in the past six weeks.

“Regardless of suspected Covid19 conditions, pending Covid-19 tests or even a positive Covid-19 test, using a rapid diagnostic test or blood smear microscopy can obtain results urgently.

“Malaria should be considered in a patient with a progressively worsening febrile illness of unknown cause even if no travel history to a malaria endemic area.”

In its October health communique, the NICD said: “Malaria control measures in South Africa’s three endemic provinces (KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo), in the form of indoor residual insecticide spraying, are intended to interrupt transmission by reducing populations of vector mosquitoes, and to detect, report and investigate malaria cases and clusters.

“The current Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted important public health programmes, such as tuberculosis and childhood vaccination, by shifting the priorities of health-care workers and available funds to Covid-19-related activities, and also by discouraging the public from visiting clinics and other health-care facilities.”

The institute added: “The overlap between these infections continues with more serious infections, because severe malaria frequently results in a sepsis-like picture including respiratory distress that can clinically resemble Covid-19 lung involvement. Unrecognised and untreated malaria can rapidly progress to severe illness with a high mortality.

“We remind readers that even non-malaria-endemic provinces, particularly Gauteng, receive imported malaria cases throughout the summer months.”

The Star

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