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World Malaria Day 2020: Does malaria continue to be a threat during Covid-19 outbreak?

The early symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, myalgia and fatigue, might be confused with malaria and lead to challenges in early clinical diagnosis.

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi | Published: April 25, 2020 11:21:33 am
world malaria day, malaria, indianexpress.com, indianexpress, covid-19, coronavirus, pandemic, lockdown, malaria types, malaria treatment, malaria india, March and April are crucial months when preventive measures such as
fogging, fumigation and awareness campaigns are undertaken. (Source: File/Getty Images/Thinkstock)

While social distancing and a national lockdown have been initiated by the government to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, there are occasional bouts of diseases like malaria, dengue and yellow fever that require equal attention. “March and April are crucial months when preventive measures such as fogging, fumigation and awareness campaigns are undertaken. Currently, this work is halted due to a nationwide lockdown. The peak season for malaria starts from May and a spike is seen after the monsoon, in July and August,” stated Dr Sudha, head, health and travel at Digit Insurance.

Malaria preparedness and testing

The World Malaria Report, published in 2018 by World Health Organization, says “India carries four per cent of the global malaria burden and contributes to 87 per cent of the total malaria cases in South-East Asia. India is in malaria elimination mode and has set targets to achieve a malaria-free status by 2030. Diagnosis and treatment of asymptomatic falciparum malaria cases continues to be a challenge for healthcare providers. To overcome these hurdles, innovative solutions along with the existing tools and strategies involving vector control, mass drug administration and disease surveillance hold the key to solving this gigantic health problem.”

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Pregnant women, infants, children under five years of age and patients with HIV/AIDS, as well as non-immune migrants, refugees, mobile populations and travellers are more susceptible to malaria and hence, they should take special care. However, there is certain similarity in symptoms of COVID-19 and malaria. The early symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, myalgia and fatigue, might be confused with malaria and lead to challenges in early clinical diagnosis.

Treatment and preventive measures

Treating malaria is an expensive affair especially if the patient requires hospitalisation due to associated complications or has been admitted with more severe forms of malaria. In case, senior citizens have been diagnosed with malaria, the chances of the disease affecting the patient’s vital organs become very high. In these cases, it is highly recommended to have health insurance for senior citizens to ensure that the costs of treatment are not alarming.

Right now, there are no vaccines which have been discovered for malaria but as a precautionary step, people can make use of mosquito bed nets, wear full-sleeved clothes and apply lotions on exposed skin. Anti-malarial drugs should be taken as prescribed by doctors. Malaria transmission occurs mostly during night because of the feeding habits of anopheles mosquitoes and taking precautionary measures against mosquito bite can help us to fight against this disease. Certain states that are more prone to malaria should not scale back on planned malaria prevention, diagnostic and treatment activities, advised Dr Sudha.

The need for medical insurance

Health insurance is highly essential in a country like India. With diseases on the rise and the cost of health care becoming prohibitive, medical insurance is a necessity for every individual. Malaria is not only physically debilitating, but it can also burn a hole in your pocket, especially if the patient needs hospital admission. Any health insurance plan with hospitalisation benefit will cover expenses related to malaria but people should always read the policy terms and conditions before buying their product. Insurance cost may vary as per location, hospital, city and severity of malaria disease and cannot be defined. A health insurance policy takes care of the finances as you recover.

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