Your Covid-19 questions answered

Do I have malaria or Covid-19?

14 January 2022 - 07:00
The NICD has noted some differences between symptoms of malaria and Covid-19. Stock photo.
The NICD has noted some differences between symptoms of malaria and Covid-19. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Diego_cervo

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says people who may have contracted malaria during the festive season may struggle to differentiate between it and Covid-19 as they have similar symptoms. 

The institute says malaria requires immediate medical intervention as it poses an immediate threat when compared with Covid-19.

If you travelled to a malaria-endemic area and start to feel ill, it’s important to understand the differences between malaria and Covid-19 as they share symptoms. Malaria may pose a more immediate threat than Covid-19, so it is essential to seek medical help promptly,” said the institute.

Thohoyandou, Musina and Giyani in Limpopo are some of SA's moderate risk areas for malaria. The institute recommends antimalarial drugs from September to May for all travellers. 

Similar symptoms that can be experienced by individuals with malaria and Covid-19 include fever, chills, fatigue, headache, and muscle and joint pain. 

Here's how to differentiate between malaria and Covid-19:

  • Malaria is transmitted through mosquitos and Covid-19 is transmitted between people through respiratory droplets;
  • Onset of symptoms for Covid-19 typically develop within five days after infection but can show as early as two days or as late as 10 days after infection. Conversely, malaria symptoms start showing 10 days after infection. A person may feel ill as soon as seven days after infection or as late as a year later; and
  • Covid-19 symptoms include cough, loss of taste and smell and sore throat, while early malaria symptoms typically include fever, chills and headaches.

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