World Malaria Day 2022: Covid-19 and malaria may share a number of symptoms like fever, difficulty in breathing, fatigue and headaches. While the Omicron variants are considered to be less severe by experts and they are mostly causing upper airway infections rather than affecting lungs, one still needs to exercise caution while diagnosis. (Also read: World Malaria Day 2022: Lesser-known symptoms of malaria to watch out for)
An article published in National Library of Medicine notes that Malaria symptoms may appear within 10-15 days after an infective bite and multi-organ failure is also common in severe cases among adults while respiratory distress is also expected in children with malaria, mimicking what is usually reported in patients with Covid-19. Another thing that might be common between Covid-19 and malaria is that the infected individuals may be asymptomatic for a long time while transmitting the infections through their respective modes.
Malaria is spread through bite of an infected mosquito while Covid spread can occur through direct, indirect, or close contact with infected people through infected secretions such as saliva and respiratory secretions or their respiratory droplets, which are expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or sings.
It may happen that people with fever may get tested for Covid-19 and sent home due to a negative result and conversely patients may get tested for malaria when they may in fact have Covid-19 infection. Some patients may have malaria and Covid-19 co-infection and diagnosis and treatment of one may lead to missing the other.
"A great deal has been said about Covid in the last two years' time. The question being asked now is can you make a difference in saying whether it is Covid or malaria. The answer to that question is yes. But it is not simply a matter of replying to a question like that in one way. A lot of features of Covid may be replicated in malaria. The important part of this question is if you do have symptoms that cannot be differentiated clinically, you will need to do the test as soon as possible for both Covid and Malaria," Dr Om Shrivastav, Consultant in Infectious diseases and Immunology at Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre told HT Digital in a telephonic conversation.
"After the results are clear which will be made available to you within 6-8 hours, that's the time you can decide whether you have to treat one or the other infection and in some instances, you have to treat both the infections," says Dr Shrivastav, adding that fortunately, the treatment for Covid isn't any specific anti-Covid medication and there may only be need for antibodies to be given to high-risk patients needing hospitalisation.
The expert said that depending on the infection, a patient can be treated with oral medication or admission in hospital and then resuming the medication.
"It is not going to always be possible based on symptoms whether a patient has malaria only or a patient has Covid only. Sometimes the lines are blurred. In such a situation, it is judicious to investigate for both," concludes the expert.