About 3 000 village health workers in Mashonaland East Province will be getting personal protective equipment so they are protected from Covid-19 as they attend to malaria patients, who exhibit similar symptoms.
This followed concerns that many village health workers were now hesitant to assist malaria patients as they normally do for fear of getting Covid-19 in case of a misdiagnosis.
Malaria has claimed 205 people in the first quarter and the number of cases is 85 percent up on the same period last year.
In an interview with The Herald this week, during a visit to some of the districts affected by malaria in the province, Mashonaland East provincial medical director Dr Simukai Zizhou said the province was expecting a consignment of cloth face masks this week, which are earmarked for village health workers.
He said current allocations from national level were inadequate to cover all 6 000 health workers and 3 000 village health workers in the province.
In addition, Dr Zizhou said PPEs were expensive on the open market, citing an example of disposable face masks, which he said cost US$3 each.
“There is a high demand for PPE such that the private sector where we resort to when we do not get enough quantities from Natpharm is either overcharging whatever they have or they do not have the supplies at all,” he said.
“This is unsustainable considering the fact that these are disposables and one needs to constantly change them.”
As such, Dr Zizhou said, they had resorted to cloth face masks, the first order of which will be delivered this week for further distribution to the districts.
“This will give them confidence to attend to suspected cases, test them and provide necessary treatment, which will ultimately reduce related deaths,” said Dr Zizhou.
Commenting on the Murehwa case, who was being treated of malaria at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and later turned positive to Covid-19 testing, Dr Zizhou said the patient presented a typical example of double infection of Covid-19 and malaria.
“The fact that there is Covid-19 does not make people immune to other diseases, which were already in existence,” he said.
“In fact, malaria is killing more people than Covid-19,” he said.
“For example, in this province, we recorded eight deaths in one week alone from malaria yet four of the five Covid 19 cases confirmed so far have since recovered.”
In Zimbabwe, malaria peaks between March and May and this year, the peak season coincided with Covid-19 outbreak whose symptoms are similar to those of malaria.