2020 has been a year full of various challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the year ends and we plan to mark the holiday season, some may plan to travel.
Some of the more popular destinations in Kenya and the region, especially at the coast and the lake side tend to be highly endemic for malaria. Travelers and their families would need to take precautions to protect themselves from Malaria infection while remembering to take the precautions required to reduce risk of COVID-19 infection (Wearing a mask correctly, Hand hygiene, and Social distancing).
As signs and symptoms of Malaria and COVID-19 can overlap such as a fever, headache of acute onset, fatigue and even difficulty in breathing, one should seek immediate treatment if any of the symptoms occur. Without prompt treatment, a mild case of malaria can rapidly progress to severe illness and death. A rapid malaria test can be carried out in most health facilities.
Things to do include:-
Prevention of mosquito bites by:
- Proper use of mosquito nets. Beds should be covered with nets in the evening before mosquitoes get active
- Use of mosquito repellants on exposed skin. Those labelled DEET are most recommended and application time is ideally in the evening
- Use of air conditioning where available and possible.
- Select accommodation with mosquito screens on windows
Seek advice on malaria prophylaxis that is suitable for you and your family available from the Joint Medical Service or your doctor, especially if you are considered to be in the high risk category. The category includes;
- Visitors from a non-endemic area to a malaria endemic area.
- Children below 5 years
- Pregnant women
Recognize the symptoms of malaria and seek immediate testing and treatment. If you travel to a place with known risks of getting infected with malaria it is important to understand that for most people symptoms begin 10 days to 4 weeks after infection, although one may feel sick as early as 8 days or up to one year later.
Any traveler who becomes ill with a fever or a flu-like illness while travelling and up to one year after returning home should immediately seek professional medical care. You should remember to tell your doctor that you had travelled to a malaria-risk area.
Most common signs and symptoms include:
- fever and chills. It is important to note that fevers caused by malaria may involve body temperatures of up to 40°C and higher
- nausea and/or vomiting
- muscle aches and joint aches
- body malaise/tiredness
In the event that a malaria test is negative and you feel unwell, it would be advisable seek medical advice and possibly do a COVID-19 test as well as other screening tests as recommended by your treating doctor.
Prevention and early recognition can prevent complications of Malaria.
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