On the 24th of January, the National Institue for Communicable Diseases (NICD) published an article with a malaria alert. Warning that many recent malaria cases are being misdiagnosed in the early stages as Covid-19.
Similar Early Symptoms
Both Covid-19 and malaria have very similar, non-specific, early symptoms. And as a result, as patients report signs of illness, medical practitioners are pegging the ailments as a possible Covid-19 infection. This is totally understandable considering that during the early stages both diseases cause the patient to experience fever, chills, headaches, fatigue and muscle pain.
Any individual residing in a malaria-risk area that experiences a fever or flu-like illness must request testing for malaria. Likewise, anyone who has travelled to a malaria-risk area in the past six weeks must inform the healthcare provider and request malaria testing. Practitioners can test with a blood smear microscopy or malaria rapid diagnostic test. It is the responsibility of the patient to inform the healthcare provider of any recent travel. So that they make them aware of the possibility of malaria. Areas of risk include Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga as well as countries neighbouring South Africa, especially Mozambique.
However, it is also important to note the possibility of malaria infection transmitted through Odyssean or “taxi malaria”. Meaning, that “hitch-hiking” mosquitoes could have passed the virus to someone who has not travelled to a malaria-endemic area.
The Nessesity of Treatment
In the malaria alert article, the NICD reminds us that it is crucial to be aware of the seriousness of malaria. If left undiagnosed it cannot be treated. And untreated malaria can rapidly progress to severe illness with a potentially fatal outcome.
Having said that, all forms of malaria are preventable and curable. However, the earlier you start treatment, the more effective the treatment will be. And the majority of deaths are simply the result of a late or incorrect diagnosis.