Africa Not Immune to Corona Virus Pandemic and Malaria

Africa needs to respond to new crown ahead of time, and malaria control cannot be relaxed

With the new crown epidemic pandemic, Africa is not immune. However, African countries with relatively weak health conditions and medical systems also need to face more difficulties at the same time, and high malaria in the region is one of the problems.


On March 16, local time, 14 scientists from Singapore, Germany, China, Gabon, Senegal, and the United Kingdom published a review article "Preparedness is essential for malaria-endemic regions during the top medical journal The Lancet" COVID-19 pandemic ". They reminded that given the contagious potential of the disease and its ability to undermine malaria control efforts, Africa needs to be prepared to respond to COVID-19.

In addition to the vigilance of countries around the world, Africa also needs to consider its local malaria epidemic and take additional precautions.

Corresponding author is Tu Yi, a lifelong researcher at the Artemisinin Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences. On October 5, 2015, the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Tu Yan, this is the first time that a Chinese scientist has won a Nobel Prize in science and technology. The award recognizes the great contribution of artemisinin discovered by Tu and his team in the fight against malaria in the world.

Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a parasite called a Plasmodium, also known as a "swinger", which is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito.

This parasite multiplies in the human liver, and then infects and destroys red blood cells, which continue to multiply and destroy.
Among all tropical diseases, the number and incidence of malaria threats are the highest, ranking first among the six tropical diseases that the World Health Organization focuses on.
So far, the population threatened by malaria has reached more than 3 billion people, with an annual incidence of 300-600 million people.

The new crown pneumonia OVID-19 initially broke out in Wuhan, China, and then quickly spread to other parts of China and abroad. In just three months, as of March 12, more than 125,000 people had been infected, and the number of deaths worldwide had exceeded 4,600. The Chinese government has made unprecedented efforts to control the epidemic and has invested huge resources.

Cases of COVID-19

It is worth noting that as of March 12, a number of cases of COVID-19 have also been reported in endemic areas of Africa, including Nigeria, Senegal and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Tu and others believe that given the contagious potential of the disease and its ability to undermine malaria control efforts, Africa needs to be prepared to respond to COVID-19. In addition to the vigilance of countries around the world, these regions of Africa also need to consider their local malaria epidemics and take additional precautions.

The article points out that the lessons learned from the 2014-2016 Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa are worth learning from. During this period, 
Ebola emerged in malaria-endemic countries, including Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and caused public health emergencies that severely hit malaria control efforts.
Viruses like Malaria Corona COVD etc.

In Guinea alone, the number of malaria cases found in health facilities is estimated to be 74,000 fewer than expected due to a reduction in the number of malaria patients seeking appropriate health care and a reduction in the number of malaria treatments that can be provided compared to the years when the Ebola epidemic did not occur example. The paper also mentioned that the reason for the above is that the early symptoms of Ebola are very similar to malaria, which makes early diagnosis difficult, and community members are also afraid of contracting Ebola in health facilities.

It is also because of the Ebola virus overwhelming health care infrastructure that insufficient resources to control malaria in these areas have led to increased mortality and morbidity. 
In Guinea, the official number of malaria deaths reported in 2014 was 1067 (who is estimated to be 9,428), while the number of deaths reported in 2013 was 108. By comparison, the number of people who died of Ebola virus disease in 2014 was 2,446. 
More worrying is that it is estimated that about 7,000 children under 5 years of age died from malaria-related diseases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus.

Therefore, Tu and others believe that malaria-endemic areas face real and urgent dangers when facing the threat of emerging infectious diseases.

In terms of transmission trends, in addition to China, local outbreaks have also occurred in countries such as Italy, Iran, and South Korea. These outbreaks may lead to disease output and increase the risk of exposure. And with Africa's increasing global connectivity. The article mentioned: The possibility of an outbreak on the African continent cannot be ruled out.

Much like Ebola virus, the early symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, myalgia, and fatigue, which may be confused with malaria, making early clinical diagnosis challenging. 
Tu Yan and others said: These characteristics of COVID-19 and previous Ebola outbreak experience show that malaria-endemic countries need to consider not only precautionary measures against the threat of COVID-19, but also its existing efforts to control malaria Possible impact.

They pointed out that the containment measures and research momentum adopted by China and other affected countries have earned valuable time for the rest of the world, and this time window should be effectively used in vulnerable areas for epidemic prevention and control.

WHO is monitoring the rapid development of the COVID-19 epidemic and needs to provide advice to countries in malaria-endemic areas on how to formulate and effectively implement public health policies. COVID-19 precautions should be taken, including case and contact tracing, isolation and screening, and education designed to encourage good hand hygiene practices.
African Countries Viruses

Tu and others suggested that African countries must take additional and proactive measures to control malaria, and foresee the potential challenges that public health systems will face during the COVID-19 outbreak. Taking Ebola as an example, it is estimated that malaria cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone could increase to as much as 1 million in 2014 due to the cessation of distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets.

The article mentions that governments and health leaders in malaria-endemic areas must ensure that this pressure on medical infrastructure is minimized in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. Resource allocation should be optimized as much as possible to ensure minimal interference with malaria control when COVID-19 control is necessary.

Management of medical supplies and storage of surgical masks and other protective equipment should be carried out in advance, and medical staff should be adequately trained. In emergency situations, large-scale drug management and the distribution of mosquito nets in high-endemic areas may be considered for short-term relief of malaria. These measures will also assist COVID-19 management by reducing pressure on medical resources and minimizing confounding factors in diagnosis.

According to WHO guidelines, such measures were successfully implemented during the outbreaks of Ebola in Sierra Leone in 2014-2015 and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018.

Tu Yu and others concluded that in malaria-endemic areas, malaria diagnosis should be systematically increased in fever management, including the management of suspected cases of COVID-19, and health institutions should have sufficient artemisinin combination therapy drugs. In addition, to increase social distance, wear a mask, seek diagnostic tests and necessary treatment in a timely manner, these preventive measures should also be communicated in advance.

Importantly, these measures will require concerted efforts by African countries and the need to show collective political will and solidarity.

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