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How To Handle COVID-19 & Malaria On Your Upcoming Holiday

  • 5 min read

Going on holiday this December? Don’t forget to educate yourself on the differences between COVID-19 and Malaria.

Thanks to the whirlwind that is 2020, the December holiday season couldn’t get here fast enough. We’ve been locked down for more than half the year, housebound as we await the pandemic to subside and holiday relaxation to kick in.

Let’s be honest, we all need a break and a getaway under the African sun is just what the psychiatrist ordered. But simply because we are in lockdown level one and you’re on holiday, doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. When it’s summer, the mozzies and malaria work permanent overtime. That’s a fact.

COVID-19 vs Malaria

Holidays are great, but we must be cognisant that malaria is still an epidemic of epic proportions, protecting our families and ourselves from this small but deadly creature is therefore essential, especially if you are travelling to a malaria area. If you’re holidaying in 2020, you need to understand the differences between malaria and COVID-19 symptoms and understand what threat both diseases pose and at what stage.

According to Sherwin Charles, co-founder of social benefit organisation Goodbye Malaria, when in an endemic area, malaria may pose a more immediate threat than COVID-19. “Yes, both diseases are potentially deadly, but we must be cognisant of what symptoms to look out for and also remember that, if not treated, Malaria can prove deadlier faster and can kill you in a matter of days whereas COVID-19 takes a little longer.”

But first, let’s analyse the symptoms of each.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

·       Fever

·       Dry cough

·       Tiredness

Whereas the most common symptoms of malaria include:

·       Fever

·       Chills

·       Headache

While there are myriad other symptoms that could present themselves, the key shared symptoms between malaria and COVID-19 is the infamous fever.

“If you’re in a malaria area and you start to develop a fever, be mindful not to isolate the potential cause to that of COVID-19 alone. When comparing both diseases, malaria is the more immediate threat and should be tested for and treated first. That is not to say that you should disregard any COVID-19 precautions in the process, but malaria needs to be ruled out first,” says Charles.

At the end of the day, and the beginning of the holiday, both diseases should be treated with equal amounts of significance. Charles says the fact that you can contract both diseases simultaneously makes it even more important to understand the differences between the two.

Protection is the best prevention

So, the good news is, much like COVID-19, malaria is by and large both preventable and treatable. If you’re in Africa, you must remember another unfortunate fact that ensures the spread of malaria. With higher temperatures, mosquitoes can mature faster and have more time to spread the disease. The malarial parasite also matures more quickly at warmer temperatures – making Africa a prime spot for malaria to set up shop.

“If you are travelling to areas like Mozambique, the lowveld of Mpumalanga or the Kruger National Park in South Africa this festive season, you need to be prepared,” says Charles. “But that should not deter you from basking in the glory of this beautiful continent. There are plenty of ways to defend yourself against mosquitoes.”

From dusk till dawn, when it comes to protection from mosquitoes, here are some of your options: 

·       Apply insect repellent to exposed skin

·       Close windows and doors at night unless they are screened

·       Spray an aerosol insecticide inside the sleeping area

·       Burn mosquito coils and mosquito mats in sleeping areas

·       Sleep under a mosquito-proof bed-net

·       Wear long-sleeved clothing, trousers, and socks if outdoors during this time

·       In high-risk areas the use of anti-malaria drugs is recommended

“Don’t be afraid to take your holiday. If you follow all these precautions you can make African memories under African skies, no matter the area,” says Charles.

However, he added, “Ensure you are wearing your masks, sanitising your hands and giving your fellow travellers space as well. We need to be vigilant at all times if we are going to beat COVID-19.”

Not everyone is so lucky

Although most tourists have the luxury of taking precautionary medication, millions of Africans are not so lucky. This is why organisations like Goodbye Malaria collaborate with world-class partners, including the Global Fund, private organisations, and the governments of Mozambique, South Africa and eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) to eradicate this scourge.

Goodbye Malaria does most of its work in Southern Mozambique. With malaria in Mozambique affecting low-transmission countries, South Africa and Eswatini, it only makes sense to start where solutions are needed most.

To learn more about Goodbye Malaria and the good work they do visit their website, or explore their shop where you can shop to contribute to meaningful change with proceeds of each sale going to the fight against malaria.