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Doctors speak on Covid symptoms

High temperature not common in cases

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Medical experts in the country have said high temperature has not been one of the common symptoms in coronavirus infection in Malawi, marking a departure from World Health Organisation’s categorisation of high temperature as one of the symptoms of coronavirus infection.

Local researchers have, meanwhile, called for localised research to understand the trend.

Kamuzu Central Hospital Director Dr Jonathan Ngoma recently told the nation, during the Covid daily briefing, that he had noted that most patients who test positive for Covid in Malawi did not have high body temperature.

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Medical experts we interviewed agreed with Ngoma’s observations, saying the screening exercise that is normally enforced in public and private places had not yielded the desired results in categorising high temperature as one of the common symptoms of Covid.

Ngoma said this is unlike in China, where the disease first emerged and 99 percent of people with Covid were developing fever.

He has since called for clinical research that would help stakeholders understand why patients in Malawi do not have high body temperature, which would inform on how best to move forward with Covid treatment.

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“What we noticed, here, [is that] our patients don’t get high temperatures. There were exercises where they were checking temperatures in several places but [that] did not yield anything. So we need to do this because it is going to inform how we are going to manage our patients,” Ngoma said recently.

College of Medicine-based Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health Adamson Muula concurred with Ngoma, saying the finding was noted long ago— during the first wave of coronavirus—that high temperature was not one of the common symptoms of the novel coronavirus in Malawi.

“Trying to get the temperature is not the right approach to check if one has Covid because, in Malawi, temperature has not been seen as one of the common symptoms. We have been spending time on temperature checks, which is not an informing factor. Those temperature guns that people use to check temperature in banks and other public places have not yielded a positive result other that helping reminding people that we have Covid,” Muula said.

Blantyre District Environmental Officer Penjani Chunda observed that the common Covid signs in Malawi were different from those noted in other areas of the world, including China— where the first case of coronavirus was reported in Wuhan in December 2019.

“In the early days of the infection, high temperature is not detected. So far, no case has ever been captured using temperature in Malawi. High Temperature has not been directly associated with Covid in Malawi.

“The major common symptoms in Malawi have been coughing, sneezing, sore throats, loss of smell and taste,” he said.

If suggestions that temperature checks do not lead to identification of Covid cases in Malawi are true, then public and private sector players have spent a fortune on could infrared thermometers in vain.

This is because Research and Markets has indicated, in its ‘Global Infrared Thermometers Market Research Report 2020’,that the emergence of Covid has resulted in increased activity in the thermometers’ market.

“OTC [over-the-counter] purchases of thermometers have therefore spiked significantly since the start of the pandemic. Especially benefitting are infrared thermometers given their non-contact use which is valuable given the highly transmissible nature of Covid via infected surfaces and physical contact. Until a vaccine is ready, temperature monitoring will be the new norm and will become as commonplace as security checks after the 9/11 attacks,” the reports reads.

Meanwhile, health rights activist Maziko Matemba has said research into effectiveness of temperature checks would be important. He said the research could extend to other areas.

“Malawi has not invested much in research but most of the findings are from outside the country. Malawi might be different if we look at how coronavirus is spread, but also the feedback and response from patients, because he [Dr Ngoma] is talking of patients’ response.

“Someone can have a low temperature but still be Covid positive. So, that research would be important to determine the main problem,” he said.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango has stressed that fever is one of the recognised signs of Covid infection although there are other signs.

“The point that Dr Ngoma was trying to raise is that we should not just cut and paste or just adopt research findings from elsewhere,” Malango said.

Worldwide, fever is listed as one of the common symptoms of Covid.

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