So you think you have the coronavirus - what now?

(Photo by Gallo Images/Volksblad/Mlungisi Louw)
(Photo by Gallo Images/Volksblad/Mlungisi Louw)

As the reality sets in that Covid-19 cases are on the rise, many are wondering if that fluey feeling is coronavirus, and what one should do.

Netcare's Mande Toubkin, the general manager for emergency and trauma for the healthcare group, compiled a list of dos and don'ts during a time where a pre-winter runny nose or a sudden hot flush may leave one frozen in uncertainty.

Don't go to a hospital or emergency ward to be screened or tested for Covid-19. Emergency wards are for urgent life-saving care for people with traumatic injuries or medical emergencies.

More than 80% of people with Covid-19 will have minor to moderate symptoms, so there is no reason for them to be seen in an emergency department. Going to a hospital with a suspected case also places people at the hospital at unnecessary risk.

Do practice social distancing.

Do self-quarantine at home so that the infection is not spread to others. 

Do phone your primary healthcare provider if you meet the case definitions for Covid-19, and suspect you may have it.

According to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) symptom guide, the most common symptoms are fever, tiredness, and a 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.

Some people become infected but do not develop any symptoms and do not feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

Around one out of every six people 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 a serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

Don'go to the GP's rooms without phoning in advance.

Do tell the GP your recent travel history, contact with people who had recently travelled to countries with Covid-19 outbreaks, personal contact with a person with a confirmed case, or symptoms associated with it that you are experiencing.

The doctor may ask specific questions to assess you, advise whether you need to be tested for Covid-19, and give you a referral to a pathology laboratory for testing to be done. If you have phoned your doctor and they want you to come to the consulting rooms, they will be able to take the necessary safety precautions to assist you promptly when you arrive while safeguarding themselves and others at the facility from possible infection.

Your doctor may examine you and take a swab from inside your nose and mouth which will be sent to a laboratory for Covid-19 testing.

You should receive the results within 48 to 72 hours, and you should self-quarantine at home until the results are known. 

How to self-quarantine for a suspected or confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis:

Don't have contact with anybody while waiting for the result. This is critical so that there is no risk that you could pass the infection on to them if the result is positive.

Don't leave your house to go to any public places.

If you need to go outside your home, do so on your own, not with any other people.

If you live with other people, avoid or keep any contact to a minimum.

Do keep a distance of at least two metres from them if you do need to have contact.

Don't spend time in the same room with another person.

Do stay in a room that is well-ventilated, and open windows for ventilation.

Do discourage any visitors from coming to your home.

If you have a cough, wear a mask but make sure you follow the guidelines for the correct way of putting on the mask, wearing it and disposing of it to offer effective protection against the spread of infection.

Do use tissues.

Do throw tissues away immediately in a separate rubbish bag.

Do clean your hands often and thoroughly with alcohol-based hand rub or hand spray, or wash them with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds.

Do clean the bathroom, door handles, taps and any other surfaces you may have touched if you share a bathroom, every time you use it.

Do use a bleach-based disinfectant each time you have used it to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

Do keep the towels you use separately.

Don't share towels with other people.

Do ask friends or family to deliver essential groceries and medicines you may need while you are in self-quarantine.

Do arrange for these items to be delivered by your supermarket or pharmacy.

Do ask them to leave the deliveries outside the home for you to fetch.

Don't eat with other people in the home.

Do use disposable crockery and utensils if possible.

Do throw disposable crockery and utensils in a separate rubbish bag.

Do wash the crockery and utensils you used immediately in hot water and dishwashing liquid.

Do a separate run for the dishwater only for the crockery and utensils you used, if you are using a dishwater put it on a high temperature.

Do keep the crockery and utensils you use separately from those used by others in the home.

Do maintain good home hygiene, and clean any surfaces you may have touched often and thoroughly with a bleach-based disinfectant. 

Do wash your clothing separately from that of others in a washing machine at high temperature.

Do phone the doctor who tested you for guidance if your symptoms worsen.

Do contact an emergency medical services provider if you believe your symptoms have worsened to the point that you are facing a medical emergency.

Do tell them that you have been tested for Covid-19 and are awaiting 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," said Toubkin. 

"Only persons whose condition is such that they require in-hospital care need to be admitted."

The WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure.

It says there are several ongoing clinical trials that include both western and traditional medicines and will provide updated information accordingly.

The WHO also provides full guidelines on homecare for healthcare workers, where required.

To be able to leave isolation, it recommends that for mild laboratory confirmed patients who are cared for at home, cases must test negative twice from samples collected at least 24 hours apart.

Where testing is not possible, the WHO recommends that confirmed patients remain isolated for an additional two weeks until the symptoms clear up.

- Compiled by Jenni Evans

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