ON the afternoon of Thursday, March 5, the Department of Health stated that the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD) confirmed South Africa’s first positive case of the COVID-19 virus (Coronavirus) in KwaZulu-Natal. To date, Department of Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has raised the confirmed number of infected people to seven. The number of people who have been tested throughout the country is over 300 but the department cannot confirm the number of people tested who were in contact with those who tested positive. The department stated that the first patient, a male (38) had recently returned to country following a trip to Italy as a party of ten people. The party had returned to South Africa on March 1.Subsequently, two other positive cases had been confirmed, a woman from Gauteng and the second being the wife of the first patient. On Monday, an additional four cases were confirmed. All seven patients were from the same convoy that returned to South Africa following a trip to Italy.WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS AND COVID-19According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19. They state that this new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.SYMPTOMSThe most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. WHO further states that these symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people, (about 80%), recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around one out of every six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.HOW DOES IT SPREAD?People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than one metre away from a person who is sick.WHO is assessing ongoing research on the ways COVID-19 is spread and will continue to share updated findings. PRECAUTIONS TO REDUCE RISK: • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water as this helps to kill viruses that may be on your hand• Maintain at least one metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, as hand pick up viruses on surfaces it can come into contact with. • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.• Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading• Self-isolate by staying at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache, low grade fever (37.3 C or above) and slight runny nose, until you recover. If it is essential for you to have someone bring you supplies or to go out, e.g. to buy food, then wear a mask to avoid infecting other people.• If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travellers. Members of the public can phone the NICD toll free public hotline on 0800 029 999 Mondays to Fridays, from 8am to 4pm, for information on the coronavirus.