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SA could be missing malaria cases as symptoms look like Covid-19: NICD

The focus on Covid-19 could be resulting in malaria cases slipping through the system, the NICD said.

27 January 2022 - 07:00
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has warned that despite SA entering its peak malaria season, many cases are being misdiagnosed as Covid-19.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has warned that despite SA entering its peak malaria season, many cases are being misdiagnosed as Covid-19.
Image: 123RF/Vasuta Thitayarak

Despite SA entering its peak malaria season, many malaria cases are being misdiagnosed as Covid-19, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) warned this week.

It said malaria and Covid-19 had similar non-specific early symptoms including fever, chills, headaches, fatigue and muscle pain.

“Undiagnosed and untreated malaria rapidly progresses to severe illness, with a potentially fatal outcome,” the NICD said.

The organisation said that any individual presenting with fever or flu-like illness — if they reside in a malaria-risk area in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal or Mpumalanga — or have travelled to a malaria-risk area, especially Mozambique, in the past six weeks, must be tested for malaria.

It said if the person tested positive for malaria, they must start treatment immediately.

“Patients must remember to inform their healthcare provider of their recent travel, particularly to neighbouring countries and malaria-risk areas in SA, so that the healthcare provider is made aware of the possibility of malaria,” the NICD said.

The NICD also said odyssean, or “taxi malaria” — transmitted by hitchhiking mosquitoes — should be considered in a patient with unexplained fever who has not travelled to a malaria-endemic area, but is getting progressively sicker, with a low platelet count.

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