Think twice in these testing times

2020-03-31 06:01

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To get tested or not to get tested?

That is the question on many South Africans’ minds as we bog down in our homes.

Mediclinic has released a statement saying it is essential to understand that not everyone needs to be tested for Covid-19.

Netcare too has come out saying there are simple steps that individuals who meet case criteria, and suspect that they may have Covid-19, should take to avoid placing strain on healthcare facilities.

The case criteria, as set out by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID), are people with acute respiratory illness with sudden onset of at least one of the following: cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or fever (greater than 38°C – measured) or history of fever (subjective) irrespective of admission status. It also takes into account patient exposure and travel history criteria. For example, in the 14 days before the onset of symptoms, the patient should meet at least one of the following epidemiological criteria. They:

  • Were in close contact with a confirmed or probable case of Sars-CoV-2 (the causative virus of Covid-19) infection;
  • had a history of travel to areas with local transmission of Sars-CoV-2; (affected countries will change with time, consult the NICD website, www.nicd.ac.za, for current updates);
  • worked in, or attended a health care facility where patients with Sars-CoV-2 infections were being treated;
  • were admitted with severe pneumonia of unknown cause.

To make it even easier to assess if you do need to get tested, Mediclinic has provided an online screening tool (www.mediclinic.co.za).

Mande Toubkin, Netcare’s general manager for emergency and trauma, encourages everyone to access healthcare resources responsibly.

People who do meet the case definitions and suspect they may have Covid-19 are advised to first phone their general practitioner (GP) or nearest medical facility and to set up an appointment. The hospital group firmly advises that individuals do not go to a hospital or emergency department for testing.

“Emergency departments are specialised facilities equipped to provide urgent life-saving care to patients with traumatic injuries or medical emergencies.

“Over 80% of people with Covid-19 will have minor to moderate symptoms and there is no reason for them to be seen in an emergency department,” she says.

Netcare advises that, when phoning your GP, bring any relevant information to their attention. The doctor may ask specific questions to assess you, advise whether you need to be tested and give you a referral to a pathology laboratory for testing to be done.

Mediclinic says, where a test is required, a decision will then be made on whether to admit the patient or send them home for self-quarantine until the results of the test are known. The test involves a swab taken from inside your nose and mouth, which is sent to a laboratory for testing. Results should be available within 48 to 72 hours.

According to Netcare, you mustn’t have contact with other people while you are waiting on the results to ensure there is no risk of passing on the infection in case the test results turn out to be positive.

If your symptoms worsen while you are at home, waiting for the results, phone the doctor who tested you or the health facility where you were screened. They will advise you on the next steps.

Should your symptoms worsen to the point you believe you are facing a medical emergency, contact an emergency medical services provider and make them aware you have been tested for Covid-19 and are waiting on the results.

“The over 80% of people with confirmed Covid-19 who have little or mild symptoms do not need to be admitted to hospital but will be able to recover at home, in self-quarantine, for 14 days. Only people whose condition is such that they require in-hospital care need to be admitted,” Toubkin concludes.

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