What is COVID-19
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.
These groups may prove to be vulnerable to COVID-19
Prof Lynn Morris of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) is convinced that South Africa is prepared for COVID-19. In her 27 years at the NICD she has encountered HIV, Ebola, TB, Listeria and Klebsiella, among others. What has been done thus far include:
Maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres from people who cough or sneeze or if they are suspected of having contracted the virus. Avoid body contact and refrain from handshakes. Use the “Namaste” stance which involves putting the hands together and bowing slightly as a form of greeting. Alternatively, use the elbow or the ankle bump.
People who share offices must ensure that the distance of 1.5 metres is maintained and try and keep windows and doors open.
Avoid crowds and gatherings. Heed the President’s order to not hold any gathering of 100 or more people and be cautious when you attend smaller gatherings. Avoid music concerts, sports events, meetings, conferences and take the necessary precautions when you visit the gym, the cinema or the theatre.
The President’s address on 15 March outlines several measures that are aimed at combating the virus. The President announced a National State of Disaster. Measures to address the pandemic include travel bans for people entering South Africa and discouraging South Africans from visiting affected countries. He went further to discourage local travel via modes such as air, rail and taxis. He also placed a ban on gatherings of 100 or more people. Smaller gatherings will have to be strictly controlled. Schools will close as at 18 March 2020 until the end of the first quarter vacation. He stressed the need for strict hygiene and a change of behavior in this regard.
Avoid all non-essential travel, both locally and globally. SAHPRA has suspended business travel both locally and globally. All Committee meetings will be held on virtual platforms. As airports are areas of risk, all SAHPRA staff members are advised to stay away from airports.
The President has also placed travel bans firmly in place. These include “hotspot” areas. All travellers who return from their trips, especially those who have visited affected areas, should self-quarantine for a least 14 days.
Avoid travel on cruise ships. Recent cruise ship outbreaks of COVID-19 indicate that a large number of individuals onboard can become infected. While the majority of affected passengers may experience mild symptoms, there have been a significant number of cases requiring hospitalization and critical care, and some deaths have been reported.
If you fall ill
Stay at home and isolate yourself as a start. Contact your healthcare professional and inform him/her of your symptoms before you go to the practice. Encourage those living with you to also stay at home and to seek medical care.
There is currently no cure for COVID-19. Do not be swayed by false advertising.
There is currently no vaccine against or specific treatment for COVID-19. Treatment is supportive and should be tailored to the patient’s condition.
Drugs and Vaccines
When a vaccine or drug is developed to prevent or treat COVID-19, SAHPRA will take appropriate action to ensure availability.