Replace the hand shake with a friendly wave. Tips on limiting the spread of respiratory illness.

Date Published: 05 Mar 2020 Categories: News
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This memorandum is informed by information collated from the World Health Organisation and South African Health Authorities. It includes direct extracts from previously published guidelines from these entities.

Situation Update: South Africa Risk Profile (4 March 2020)

In the latest WHO situation report dated 4 March 2020, there were no reported cases of Coronavirus in South Africa, however, on 5 March South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases confirmed the first positive test in the country.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans. Some infect people and are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

How does the virus spread?

The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets generated when a person, for example, coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.

What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?

The symptoms are usually a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, a runny nose, cough, sore throat, possibly a headache and maybe a fever, similar to a common cold. These symptoms may last for a few of days.

How dangerous is it?

As with other respiratory illnesses, infection with 2019-nCoV can cause mild symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. It can be more severe for some persons and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as, diabetes and heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

Is there treatment for Coronavirus?

There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment, generally symptoms will subside on their own. Doctors can help relieve symptoms by prescribing a pain or fever medication. Keeping hydrated is highly advised as well as getting rest and as much sleep as possible.

How does one prevent illness?

In terms of managing the spread of the virus, the following principles apply:

  • The WHO does not recommend any specific measures such as isolation unless people experience any symptoms suggestive of acute respiratory illness either during or after travel;
  • Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections;
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and running water for 25 seconds duration, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment and use alcohol based hand rubs (applied to clean hands); regularly and before meals;
  • People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practise cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash their hands) and if this occurs after travel, report as soon as possible to health care practitioners.
  • Avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals.

Should I wear a mask to protect myself?

People with no respiratory symptoms, such as cough, do not need to wear a medical mask. WHO recommends the use of masks for people who have symptoms of COVID-19 and for those caring for individuals who have symptoms, such as cough and fever.

Recommendations for Travel

Individuals may encounter travel disruption as several countries and airlines around the world implement precautionary measures, including screening and quarantine measures.
Travel restrictions to/from other countries are largely the result of decisions taken by national public health authorities. As of 3 March 2020, South Africa has not imposed any travel restrictions for citizens and has not implemented mandatory quarantine for any travellers arriving into the country.

Dr Phathokuhle Zondi is the CEO of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa. She currently serves as the Chairperson for the SASCOC Medical Advisory Committee and is the past president of the South African Sports Medicine Association.  An established sports medicine physician, she has been appointed as the Chief Medical Officer for Team South Africa for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and in this capacity, has convened an Advisory Group that is defining guidelines and best practice to ensure the safety of Team South Africa’s athletes.

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