Wednesday | 08 April | 2020
By Emsie Martin
There are so many questions and so few answers regarding the coronavirus, which is why I am sharing this press release with readers.
Coronaviruses are large groups of viruses that usually only manifest in animals. These viruses can also cause humans to fall ill. Human usually contract a light to moderate upper airway infection, similar to flu. The new coronavirus, names COVID-19, was identified in China and is linked to an outbreak of viral pneumonia.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the new infectious disease caused by the coronavirus that was discovered after an outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- Cough – usually dry
- Myalgia (aching muscles or body)
- Difficulty breathing
Take note that a sore throat and runny nose do not occur so regularly with COVID-19 – you experience these when having flu or other upper airway infections.
People presumably have the COVID-19 virus when:
- They have flu symptoms,
- During the past 14 days travelled overseas to an area where COVID-19 is spreading from person to person in the community OR were in close contact (face-to-face contact in a closed room or transport) with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, OR
- There is someone in the household or at work who tested positive for COVID-19, OR
- They worked in a facility were a COVID-19 case or cases were diagnosed and did not wear personal protective gear, OR
- They travelled to an area where COVID-19 spreads from person to person in the community.
Areas affected are updated daily by the NCID at: https://www.nicd.ac.za/diseases-a-z-index/covid-19/daily-updates-of-countries/
You should begin suspecting that you have COVID-19 when you feel as if you have the flu and have travelled to an area where COVID-19 spreads from person to person in the community OR have been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19 OR it is suspected that the person has COVID-19.
How does COVID-19 spread?
- COVID-19 is spread mainly through respiratory droplets that are released when a person with the virus coughs or sneezes.
- Through close personal contact such as touching or greeting by hand.
- By touching an object or surface where the virus is located and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before having washed your hands.
- Because the virus is air-borne, it is important to stay more than one to two metres away from a person who is ill.
How do I protect myself?
You can decrease your chances of contracting COVID-19 by doing a few simple things:
- Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser for at least 20 seconds.
- Wash your hands regularly, especially before starting to work with food, after a visit to the toilet or after you have coughed or sneezed.
- Cough or sneeze in the crook of your elbow or into a tissue. Throw away the tissue after use and then wash your hands.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth unnecessarily with hands that have not been washed.
- Rather do not come close to people who are ill.
- If you aren’t ill, you needn’t wear a mask; it will not really protect you. But a mask (surgical mask works well, N95 is not necessary) will help prevent that people who cough or sneeze infect others.
- Stay at home if you don’t feel well.
When should I have a test done?
If you experience flu symptoms after having visited a country or area where COVID-19 spreads from person to person in the community OR you have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 OR where it is suspected that the person has COVID-19, stay calm. Remember, even if you do have COVID-19, most cases aren’t that serious.
If you require medical help, it is important that you do so in a manner which will not have you infecting others:
- If you have access to private health care, phone your family doctor or local health facility. Explain your symptoms and where you travelled to or with whom you were in contact.
- If you use the state’s health service, phone your local health facility or the NCID hotline at 0800 029 999.
- If you can’t phone, go to your local facility. Before you enter, tell the personnel that you may have COVID-19. They will most probably ask you to wear a mask. You will be requested to wait away from the other patients until a health worker can help you.
- If you start having trouble breathing, get urgent medical help. If possible, first phone your local health facility to tell them you are on your way to them.
What are the chances of me contracting COVID-19?
The risk depends on where you are – and more specifically, if the COVID-19 outbreak has already commenced there. At the moment more than 1000 cases have been reported in our country. It is important that you stay abreast of all the places where the virus is, overseas and locally.
Should I be concerned about COVID-19?
In four out of five cases, the illness caused by COVID-19 infection is usually not serious. Cases among children and young adults are rare. However, the infection can cause serious illnesses, especially among the elderly and patients with other illnesses. It is therefore quite normal that people would be concerned about what effect the COVID-19 outbreak will have on them and their loved ones.
We can utilise our fears to do something to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. The first thing we need to do, is to wash our hands regularly and thoroughly and to be careful when we cough or sneeze. Secondly, we have to stay abreast of the news and follow the advice from the local health authorities, including any restrictions and lockdowns.
Who is in danger of becoming seriously ill?
While we are still busy discovering how COVID-19 affects people, it appears that the elderly and people with existing illnesses (such as lung diseases, heart diseases, cancer or diabetes) become more ill than other people.
Is there a vaccine, medicine or treatment for COVID-19?
At this stage there is no vaccine and no specific antivirus medication to prevent or treat COVID-19. However, people with the illness will receive the correct care to alleviate their symptoms.
Should I wear a mask to protect myself?
You should only wear a mask if you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms (especially coughing), or looking after someone who might have COVID-19. Disposable masks can only be used once. The most effective ways of protecting yourself and others against COVID-19, is to wash your hands regularly, cough into your elbow or a tissue and to stand at least one to two metres away from people who cough or sneeze.
What is the incubation period for COVID-19 and what is its duration?
The “incubation period” means from the time that the virus is contracted until the symptoms of the illness start. Most estimations of how long the incubation period for COVID-19 is, is from one to 14 days, but mostly approximately five days.
What does it mean to isolate yourself?
A public health worker will ask you to isolate yourself if he/she suspects that you have COVID-19. It can happen before you are tested for the virus or while you are waiting for the test results. This means you must stay at home and avoid contact with others for 14 days. This is to prevent the virus from spreading while you await the results.
If you aren’t yet showing symptoms, you will be asked to isolate yourself in your home, but as soon as the test results are positive, you will be admitted to an isolation ward. It is very important that you follow the health care practitioners’ instructions for isolation. They will explain them to you.
How long does the virus survive on surfaces?
It is not yet clear how long the COVID-19 virus survives on surfaces, but it would seem that the virus acts similarly to other corona viruses.
According to studies, corona viruses can remain on surfaces for a few hours up to a few days. This can vary under different circumstances, such as the kind of surface, temperature or humidity of the surroundings. If you suspect that a surface might be contaminated, clean it with a disinfectant to kill the virus and protect you and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand cleanser or wash them with soap and water. Don’t touch your eyes, mouth or nose unnecessarily.
Who can I contact if I am unsure or if I need further information?
- Contact the public hotline at 0800 029 999. It is available 14 hours per day.
- Contact 0800 029 999 or 0800 111 132. They are available 24 hours per day.
- Send “Hi” to 060 012 3456 on WhatsApp.
Do what you can and be safe!
Issued by https://www.westerncape.gov.za/department-of-health/frequently-asked-questions/frequently-asked-questions-afrikaans
* All information was correct at the time of publication.