Explainer: The difference between Covid-19 and Malaria

Explainer: The difference between Covid-19 and Malaria

Nigeria confirmed its first Covid-19 case in late February 2020 in Lagos. Over two months after, the infectious disease has spread to 34 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

Nigeria has one of the highest cases in Africa; 5,621 confirmed cases, 1,472 recoveries and 176 deaths.

Despite the rising cases and deaths almost on a daily basis, there are still some Nigerians, including the elites, who are still doubtful of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

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For instance, a survey by NOIPolls, a country-specific polling service in the West African region, revealed that six percent of Nigerians still consider the COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria to be fake.

They believe the outbreak “is real in other countries but not in Nigeria.”

According to some, the COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria is propaganda and a means for the government to embezzle funds.

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Others said they have not seen anybody infected by the virus in their states, hence their disbelief.

Even very recently, a US-based Nigerian nurse identified as Yetunde Ifelowo claimed there was no COVID-19 in Nigeria.

Ifelowo alleged that she and others in the United States don't believe that Nigeria is having a share of the deadly pandemic.

The nurse claimed Nigeria's population is just like New York, adding that the country would have had more cases than the US if truly COVID-19 is real back home.

A few days ago, Raymond Dokpesi, the chairman of Daar Communications, raised doubts over the infectious disease again when he questioned the difference between it and malaria.

There have been debates across the world over the similarities of the novel coronavirus to malaria, especially after viral claims that Chloroquine, a malaria drug, helped in treating some symptoms exhibited by Covid-19 patients.

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Explainer: The difference between Covid-19 and Malaria

The DG of the NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu. Photo credit: NCDC
Source: Twitter

What exactly is the difference or similarity between Covid-19 and malaria?

According to the director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu, malaria and Covid-19 are completely different diseases.

While Covid-19 is caused by a virus (coronavirus), malaria is caused by a parasite.

However, many diseases (in Nigeria), Yellow Fever, Lassa Fever, Malaria, etc. all present a similar symptom (i.e. with a Fever) at the beginning.

Also, the national coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, explained that the "symptoms of Malaria and Covid-19 can be very similar, but the two are VERY DIFFERENT illnesses."

To summarise it, Covid-19 and malaria are different; Covid-19 is caused by a virus while malaria is caused by a parasite.

Someone who is infected with Covid-19 can exhibit malaria-related symptoms but not everyone who exhibits malaria symptoms tests positive for Covid-19. That is, one can test positive for Covid-19 and still have malaria at the same time.

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Also, while Covid-19 is transmitted from person to person through droplet from coughs or sneezes, malaria is not transmitted from person to person.

Since Covid-19 does not have a cure or vaccine at the moment, health workers only manage the symptoms exhibited by patients admitted at the isolation centres.

So, it is possible a malaria medication is administered on a coronavirus patient, as Dokpesi claimed, if the person has malaria shows malaria-related symptoms.

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No drug or vaccine for Covid-19 yet

The NCDC DG has said that 90% of COVID-19 patients recover without intervention.

According to Ihekweasu, what a COVID-19 patient usually requires is support for the body to recover by itself. That is, patients' symptoms are managed to keep them alive for long enough to recover by themselves.

Similarly, the PTF's national coordinator, Dr Aliyu said: "Eighty percent (80%) of people with Covid-19 will show only mild to moderate symptoms and recover, regardless of what they are given. So even if you’re taking Kolanut, the likelihood is that you will recover from Covid-19, but that doesn’t mean it was the Kolanut that got you better."

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