SA establishes specialised task team to prevent spread of coronavirus to SA

2020-01-29 12:37
Zweli Mkhize. (Leon Sadiki)

Zweli Mkhize. (Leon Sadiki) (Leon Sadiki)

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Response teams to the coronavirus outbreak have been activated in South Africa's nine provinces while a specialised team monitors the spread of the virus.

However, there have been no reported or suspected cases the virus in South Africa to date, according to the Department of Health.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said South Africa was adequately prepared for active surveillance, early detection, isolation, case management, contact tracing and prevention of the infection. He was speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday morning.

READ | SA ready to deal with coronavirus, NICD assures

The virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, earlier this month and has claimed more than 100 lives.

Mkhize said although the origin of the disease in Wuhan City was suspected to be zoonotic (of animal origin), evidence suggested that it was also being spread from human to human.

Standard procedure

The disease manifests flu-like systems. It can be complicated by a shortness of breath and multi-organ failure, and lead to death.

The department said it was aware of cases in countries outside of China and is closely tracking the movements of the virus.

Mkhize said the department was aware of a suspected case in Zambia - closer to South Africa's shores. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) is closely monitoring that situation.

The department said it was also standard procedure to monitor emergent outbreaks and that it was tracking a plethora of pathogens, including viruses of pandemic potential, such as H5N1. It said the coronavirus was no exception.

A multi-sectoral national outbreak response team (MNORT) was reconvened on January 24, comprising the World Health Organisation, the national departments of home affairs, agriculture, international relations and tourism, as well as representatives of private healthcare sector, to work on ensuring that the outbreak doesn't enter South Africa.

To monitor the disease, the health department and NICD have, among other activities, developed and distributed clinical guidelines and case definitions to doctors and nurses in the public and the private sectors, activated outbreak response teams in all provinces and intensified the screening of all travellers from China at major airports.

A 24-hour hotline has also been implemented.

READ | Countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus

"Our port health officials routinely conduct temperature screening for all international travellers. However, due to the current risk of importation of inadvertent cases of 2019-nCoV from Wuhan City in China, our port health authorities have intensified surveillance of all travellers from Asia, especially China," said Mkhize.

The department has advised people to avoid close contact with people who have acute respiratory infections and has recommended frequent hand washing, especially after contact with ill people.

People have also been urged to avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals when traveling in China and to cover their noses and mouths when sneezing or coughing.

READ | China shuts down: The measures taken to curb a virus


Read more on:    zweli mkhize  |  healthcare
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