Everything you need to know about the coronavirus

(Photo by Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Photo by Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Here is everything you need to know about the new coronavirus that has just hit South African shores.

I hear the virus called Coronavirus, Covid-19 and Sars-CoV-2? Which is it?

A new coronavirus (there are many strains of the virus) was discovered in China in December last year. The virus is called Sars-CoV-2 and the disease it causes is called Covid-19.

In other words, you can get infected by a coronavirus called Sars-CoV-2 and be infected with Covid-19.

If I have the virus, will I die?

The majority of people who have contracted the virus to date (98% in fact) have survived.

Most people (80%) fell ill, experienced mild to medium symptoms, then got better.

Some people (15%) needed hospital treatment as they got viral pneumonia but recovered.

If you are healthy and take all measures to seek medical treatment, the likelihood of dying from Covid-19 is minimal

About 5% of people require ICU treatment and of that 5%, only about 2% died and this was normally due to them being critically ill already when they caught the virus, were very elderly or, they had a pre-existing condition such as asthma or diabetes.

So, if you are healthy and take all measures to seek medical treatment, the likelihood of dying from Covid-19 is minimal.

There are hardly any cases of children under the age of 15 presenting signs of Covid-19 infection. It is not believed that the virus can be contracted from mother to child in the womb, or through breast milk, however, precautions must be taken to ensure that a mother who may be ill does not pass the virus on to her baby after birth.

Don’t get caught up in #Coronaphobia and start panicking. Just be sensible. If you have no symptoms, there is no need to worry

What do I do if I have travelled to a country that has cases of Covid-19?

Don’t get caught up in #Coronaphobia and start panicking. Just be sensible. If you have no symptoms, there is no need to worry.

If you have recently travelled to a country that has cases of the virus and start experiencing symptoms (a dry cough, high fever, and trouble breathing), call your doctor. You do not need to do so if you are not experiencing symptoms.

Your doctor will advise you if they feel you should be tested or if you need to go for a check up.

If you can, self isolate – this means, don’t go to work, religious gatherings, shopping centres or use public transport. Stay at home and keep a good distance from others – at least one metre away from everyone at all times, for at least 14 days.

If your doctor feels you should be tested, a swab (not a blood test) will be taken and sent to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) for analysis which takes about 24 hours.

Your doctor will advise you on the results and if you have Coronavirus, the NICD will be in touch to advise you of the procedures to follow.

If I have coronavirus, will I be forced into a hospital quarantine?

Follow these simple rules
  • Keep at least one metre away from others at all times;
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing;
  • Wear a surgical mask or construction mask to cover your mouth if you choose (however, this is not necessary);
  • Wash your hands and surfaces regularly and using hand sanitiser;
  • Follow the medical advice and any treatments suggested by your doctor;and
  • Strictly stay away from any public space.

If you have normal symptoms, you will be asked to stay at home and to self-isolate

If you do not stay at home and knowingly go into public places with the virus, legal action can be taken against you as you are knowingly putting others at risk.

Only if you develop more severe symptoms such as pneumonia, will you be hospitalised and put into medical isolation. This would only be at the advice of your doctor or medical practitioner.

Those with the virus and not experiencing severe symptoms will simply be required to stay at home, reduce contact with others in the home and ensure they follow the simple rules.

I think I have Covid-19. What do I do while I wait for my doctor to confirm?

Don’t panic, but be sensible.

Self isolate – this means, stay away from work, colleagues, public spaces and public transport. Keep at least a metre away from family members or housemates at all times.

Wash your hands often and properly – especially after you have sneezed or coughed.

If you want to, wear a surgical or construction mask (the options bought over the counter are fine) but otherwise, just making sure your cover your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze is sufficient.

Don’t touch anything after coughing or sneezing or touching your face.

Wipe down surfaces in your house such as tables, chairs, taps, handles etc with household cleaner such as Handy Andy, Milton, or antiseptic cleaner. You do not require stronger detergents than this, however, using them will not do any harm.

Seek medical advice if you have any of the symptoms and self isolate

How do I keep myself safe from Coronavirus?

If you can avoid travel to other countries for now, do so. Make use of modern technology to video conference or call into meetings.

If you are using public transport or you are in a confined space such as a lift or small closed room, and somebody standing or sitting close to you (less than one metre away) is coughing and not covering their mouth and nose, cover your own mouth or nose to avoid droplets escaping from their mouth or nose infecting you via your mouth, nose or eyes.

Wash your hands thoroughly and as regularly as possible.

Carry hand sanitiser for when it might not be possible to wash hands and use it often.

Avoid touching your face (especially your nose, mouth and eyes) as touching an infected surface and then touching your face will spread the virus.

Try and keep at least a one metre radius between you and others. This is because an infected person who might cough or sneeze will release droplets into the air which will carry in the air for only one metre before falling to the floor. Standing at least a metre away keeps you safe.

Only wear a mask if you are experiencing symptoms and not to prevent contracting the virus – this can be a health hazard in itself.

Don’t shake hands, hug or kiss – come up with new, fun ways to greet that don’t require physical contact.

Keep hand sanitiser on you at all times and use it, especially if using public transport or lifts, or you are in a confined space.

Try not to touch surfaces such as handrails, handles, seats, buttons etc and if you do, wash your hands thoroughly afterwards and do not touch your face, nose, mouth or eyes to eliminate spreading the virus.

Seek medical advice if you have any of the symptoms and self isolate.

How to wash your hands properly

•Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold)

•Turn off the tap, and apply soap

•Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap;

•Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds

•Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

•If you want to, use hand sanitiser after washing, you can also do so.

How does the Coronavirus make people ill?

For the virus to infect you, it must first attach itself to human cells. Viruses attach to the proteins of cells and then use own cellular machinery to make copies of themselves (and thus spread and infect your body).

Coronas attach to upper epithelial (or skin) cells in the upper respiratory tract (mouth, nose, throat). The carrier droplets that contain the virus don’t need to be very small. So, when we cough/sneeze/talk loudly, we release droplets (saliva or mucous) that fall within a radius of 1 metre around a person.

That means that if you are further than a metre away from a person who has coughed or sneezed, there is no chance of the droplets landing on you and you reduce your risk of getting the virus.

If you are next to a person who has the virus for a few seconds or minutes, there is very little chance of you getting the virus unless droplets from them sneezing or coughing have landed directly in your mouth, nose or eyes.

If you are close to a person who has the virus for longer than that, you are more likely to catch it as there would have been more opportunity for droplets to infect you.

The virus is NOT spread by mosquitos

Most viruses need a warm body temperature and the PH balance of a human body to live and thrive. They also need human cells to copy themselves and infect you. As they leave the body, they will die as the temperature drops, the PH balance becomes acidic and the droplets dry out. So, there is a decreased chance of virus living.

This strain, however, is thought to perhaps have a 2 to 7-day survival rate and can be found on non-living surfaces (tables, desks, handles etc) but scientist don’t yet know if its living on non-live surfaces. To be safe, advice is to constantly wipe surfaces with detergent (normal household detergents will kill the virus), to change the PH balance of the environment and kill the virus.

If you touch something which has droplets on, then touch your mouth, nose or eyes, you will infect yourself.

To prevent the virus, focus on spreading or picking it up by taking away any chance of a droplet being passed from one human to the next and ensuring the virus can’t survive on non-live objects (tables, chairs, handles etc) so clean these objects in work and public environments as often as possible and wash your hands after touching any object in a public space or in an environment where a person with Covid-19 is/has been.

Coronavirus is not transmitted through the air (as TB is) and needs droplets of spit or mucous to pass from one person to another. Specialised masks are therefore not needed to prevent the spread of the virus as it is only spread through LARGE droplets which will be trapped in a normal surgical mask.

The virus is NOT spread by mosquitos.

If the virus lands in your mouth, eyes or nasal passages due to droplet transmission, it will incubate, replicate (or copy itself) and thus infect you.

You will start showing symptoms about two to four days after you have been infected, however, this could be up 12 days.

The virus generally stays in your system (incubates) for between 4 to 7 days (and at the most, 12.5 days). So, to be safe, there is a required period of 14 days following isolation to ensure that the virus can no longer spread to others.

The three symptoms of infection are: fever, a dry cough, and shortness of breath. If you don’t have these symptoms, you likely don’t have Coronavirus. If you do have these symptoms, you may have Coronavirus but you may also have another form of flu virus/illness/infection so don’t assume you have it without medical advice.

Should I buy a mask and wear it at all times to protect myself?

Only wear a mask if you are experiencing symptoms and not to prevent contracting the virus.

Masks can be a health hazard in themselves, especially if putting the mask down and picking it up often as an infected person can then pass the droplets from the mask on to a surface such as a table, chair or handle.

They also trap other germs near to the mouth and nose.

If a person puts their mask down on a surface that has Coronavirus and then places it close to their mouth, they would have just assisted the virus in reaching its desired place to infect – the nose, mouth and throat.

Hands that may have touched infected surfaces and then put a mask on will effectively trap the virus close to your mouth and nose.

It is best to just keep a safe distance from others and wash hands and surfaces regularly. - MyHealthTV.com

Contact the NICD general line if you have any questions or queries: 011 386 6400



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