The need to address the danger of self medication have become very urgent, a matter of public health concern and emergency as result of the emergence COVID-19 pandemic, this is
no doubt because of the perceived similarities and no clear dichotomy in terms of symptoms and presentations between malaria and COVID-19 in a malaria endemic environment.
This has being a topic of discussion and controversies since the advent of COVID-19.
Last year(2020), the Founder and owner of DAAR communications asked a very vital question after coming out of the isolation center- "is there any difference between malaria and COVID-19?
These questions arose because of the similarities in the symptoms and also medications he was administered during isolation.
Same questions and inquiries have dominated public discussion, generated alot of controversies and sparked curiosities amongst traditional and religious leaders, market men & women, the elderly, young people, and indeed the general public.
Because malaria is endemic in our communities, people are conversant with the signs and symptoms of malaria, so any disease or illness with similar symptoms is automatically assumed to be malaria.
Nevertheless, malaria and COVID-19 is not the same.
Even, the Holy book of the Christians said" my people perish for lack of knowledge" ...but I think currently our people perish, because of misinformation and incorrect knowledge.
Hence, with the advent of COVID-19 pandemic and the ever menacing presence of malaria in our society, there's need to clearly state the dichotomy between malaria and COVID-19 in terms of the causes, signs and symptoms, prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and also appraise the current response to the fight against this two deadly diseases.
Malaria is a disease caused by a plasmodium parasite, transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes, while the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a communicable respiratory disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus.
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites, the parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, called "malaria vectors."
The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Malaria symptoms usually appear 10-15 days after the infective mosquito bite and the first symptoms a patient feels are fever, headache, and chills.
On the other hand, people infected with COVID-19 usually develop symptoms within 5 days and, in some cases, infected people never develop symptoms at all(Asymptomatic).
WHO recommends that all cases of suspected malaria be confirmed using parasite-based diagnostic testing (either microscopy or rapid diagnostic test) before administering treatment.
A molecular test is used to detect SARS-CoV-2 and confirm infection. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the most commonly used molecular test. Samples are collected from the nose and/or throat with a swab.
In addition, Rapid antigen tests (sometimes known as a rapid diagnostic test – RDT) detect viral proteins (known as antigens).
Also, Antibody tests can tell us whether someone has had an infection in the past, even if they have not had symptoms. Also known as serological tests and usually done on a blood sample, these tests detect antibodies produced in response to an infection.
Nevertheless, Antibody tests cannot be used to diagnose COVID-19 in the early stages of infection or disease but can indicate whether or not someone has had the disease in the past.
The best available treatment, particularly for P. falciparum malaria, is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT).
Scientists around the world are working to find and develop treatments for COVID-19.
But, according to WHO; Among those who develop symptoms, most (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing hospital treatment. About 15% become seriously ill and require oxygen and 5% become critically ill and need intensive care.
Vector control is the main way to prevent and reduce malaria transmission – (i.e insecticide-treated mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying).
COVID-19 can be prevented by taking some simple precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, especially when distancing cannot be maintained, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds and close contact, regularly cleaning your hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue.
Who is at risk?
For Malaria, children under 5 years of age are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria;
In 2019, nearly half of the world's population was at risk of malaria. However, Most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
People aged 60 years and over, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart and lung problems, diabetes, obesity or cancer, are at higher risk of developing serious illness as a result of COVID-19.
However, anyone can get sick with COVID-19 and become seriously ill or die at any age.
Hence, no doubt, similarities exists between malaria and COVID-19, but the difference is clear, that's why you must consult your health care provider when you're ill, instead of resorting to self medications.
The risks and dangers of self-medication is enormous, which include: Incorrect self-diagnosis,
delays in seeking appropriate medical advice and proper treatment,
potential adverse reactions,
worsening of the condition the individual is trying to self-treat, dangerous drug interaction, masking of severe diseases and continuous spread of infectious diseases in the community and possible untimely and avoidable deaths.
As the world mark the 2021 world malaria day (25th April), we as a people must take responsibility of ensuring we end malaria and COVID-19, by
1. Avoiding and stopping self medication
2. Reporting to qualified health professionals and accredited facilities any signs and symptoms of illness.
3. Don't assume a disease, get tested and diagnosed by the right professionals.
4. Government must also channel similar energy and attention of ending COVID-19 to ending malaria too.