World Malaria Day is observed every year on 25 April. The disease, which thrives mainly in tropical countries, is transmitted to humans by certain types of mosquitoes. According to the World Health Organization, “World Malaria Day is an opportunity to highlight the need for sustained investment and sustained political commitment to the prevention and control of malaria. It was established by WHO member states during the 2007 World Health Assembly.”

World Malaria Day: Symptoms of Malaria

Symptoms of malaria usually begin within 10-15 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. According to WHO, “The most common early symptoms of malaria are fever, headache and chills. Symptoms may be mild for some people, especially those who have had a previous malaria infection. Because some of the symptoms of malaria are non-specific occur, so early detection is important.”

WHO lists some serious symptoms of malaria:

– extreme tiredness and fatigue
– impaired consciousness
– multiple convulsions
– Difficulty in breathing
– dark or bloody urine
Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
– abnormal bleeding

“People with severe symptoms should get emergency care right away. Getting treated early for mild malaria can prevent the infection from becoming serious. Malaria infection during pregnancy can also lead to preterm labor or a low birth weight baby.” delivery,” shares WHO.

How to differentiate between Covid-19, H3N2 Influenza and Malaria

Since the symptoms of malaria are often similar to those of most other flus, it can be difficult to differentiate, especially during this flu season. Dr Vijay Kumar Gurjar, Senior Consultant and Head, Department of Geriatric Medicine, Primus Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi, said, “Amidst the spurt in viral flu infections, it can be challenging to distinguish whether the fever and body aches experienced by individuals Covid-19 is caused by H3N2 influenza, or mosquito-borne malaria. While the Covid-19 pandemic is estimated to be on the verge of becoming endemic, the country has also recently seen a significant increase in H3N2 influenza cases. And, once the monsoon hits the ground, the malaria outbreak could increase in the coming days.”

Despite the different modes of transmission, the primary symptoms of these diseases are similar, starting with fever and body aches. Dr. Gurjar says, however, that closely monitoring individual symptoms with slight differences can be beneficial in differentiating between COVID-19, H3N2 influenza, and malaria.

Dr. Vijay Kumar Gurjar lists the following points to differentiate the three:

1. Transmission Mode: Malaria is different from COVID-19 and H3N2 in that it does not spread from person to person. This is because the Plasmodium parasite that causes malaria is transmitted through the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. In contrast, the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets, while the H3N2 influenza virus can spread both through respiratory droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces.

2. Characteristics that make a difference: Apart from some similar symptoms like fever, headache and body aches, there are also many symptoms which are quite different in case of three. With malaria, major symptoms include chills, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, and if left untreated can be severe and debilitating resulting in complications such as anemia, kidney failure, and cerebral malaria , which can be life threatening. Whereas in case of COVID-19 and H3N2 influenza, the primary symptoms are fever, cough, fatigue, sore throat and runny nose. However, additional symptoms such as loss of taste or smell and shortness of breath are also seen in COVID-19.

3. Incubation Period: The length of the incubation period plays an important role in differentiating between these diseases. Symptoms of COVID-19 typically appear between 2 and 14 days after exposure, with an average incubation time of 5–6 days. In contrast, the H3N2 flu virus has an incubation period of 1–4 days, while the incubation period for malaria can range from 7 days to several months.

4. Treatment Methods: Malaria is usually treated with anti-malarial drugs, along with effective measures to prevent the spread of mosquitoes. In contrast, COVID-19 requires 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 reduce fever, cough, and sore throat.

5. Tests that determine infection: Specific diagnostic tests are available to determine the type of infection responsible for the similar symptoms from the three different diseases. The most commonly used method for the detection of malaria is microscopic examination of blood smears, which is based on the detection of malarial parasites in red blood cells. Alternatively, rapid diagnostic tests that detect malaria antigen in blood samples are widely used because of their ease of use and rapid turnaround times. H3N2 influenza is usually diagnosed using antigen tests that detect viral antigens in respiratory secretions, while PCR-based tests can provide more accurate results. The diagnosis of Covid-19 relies heavily on PCR-based tests that detect viral RNA in respiratory secretions.

As Dr Vijay Kumar Gurjar explains, people need to consult a doctor at the earliest and get tested enough to know what type of flu they have.

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