Malaria is distinct from COVID-19 and H3N2 in that it is not transmitted from one individual to another.
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In an interaction with Times Now Digital, Dr Vijay Kumar Gurjar, Senior Consultant and Head of the Department of Geriatric Medicine at Primus Super Speciality Hospital, decoded this conundrum.
The expert went on to say that despite the different modes of transmission, the primary symptoms of these illnesses are similar, starting with fever and body aches. However, closely monitoring the varying symptoms having slight differences can be beneficial in distinguishing between Covid-19, H3N2 influenza, and malaria.
How to differentiate between
covid, H3N2 influenza and Malaria?
- Transmission mode: Malaria is distinct from COVID-19 and H3N2 in that it is not transmitted from one individual to another. This is because the Plasmodium parasite that causes malaria is spread via bites from infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. In contrast, the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19 primarily spreads through respiratory droplets, while the H3N2 influenza virus can spread through both respiratory droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces.
- Unique symptoms: Besides some similar symptoms like fever, headache, and bodyache, there is also a multitude of symptoms that differs significantly in the case of three. With malaria, prominent symptoms include chills, muscle pain, nausea, and vomiting among others, and if left untreated it can turn severe and debilitating resulting in complications such as anemia, kidney failure, and cerebral malaria, which can be life-threatening. Whereas in the case of Covid-19 and H3N2 influenza, fever, cough, fatigue, sore throat, and runny nose are the primary symptoms. However, Covid-19 also presents with additional symptoms such as loss of taste or smell and shortness of breath.
- Incubation period: The duration of the incubation period plays a crucial role in distinguishing between these illnesses. COVID-19 symptoms usually manifest between 2 to 14 days following exposure, with an average incubation time of 5-6 days. In contrast, the H3N2 flu virus has an incubation period of 1-4 days, whereas malaria's incubation period can extend from 7 days to multiple months.
- Treatment methods: The modalities of treating COVID-19, malaria, and H3N2 influenza differ significantly owing to the distinct etiologist of these diseases. Malaria is typically treated with antimalarial medications alongside effective measures to contain mosquito spread. In contrast, COVID-19 necessitates a multipronged approach including medication, supportive care, and vaccination. On the other hand, H3N2 influenza is managed using antiviral agents along with symptomatic treatment to alleviate fever, cough, and sore throat.
- Tests that determine the infection: Determining the kind of infection is responsible for similar symptoms from three different diseases, there are distinguished diagnostic tests available. The most commonly used method to detect malaria is the microscopic examination of blood smears, which is based on the detection of the malaria parasite in red blood cells. Alternatively, rapid diagnostic tests that detect malaria antigens in blood samples are widely used due to their ease of use and rapid turnaround time. The diagnosis of H3N2 influenza is typically made using antigen tests that detect the viral antigen in respiratory secretions, while PCR-based assays can provide more accurate results. In contrast, the diagnosis of COVID-19 relies heavily on PCR-based tests that detect viral RNA in respiratory secretions.
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