By Dr Ilse Lategan (MBBcH, DCH) – Paediatric General Practitioner
The number of new infections with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the global coronavirus outbreak, is on the rise. On 11 March the WHO formally categorised the outbreak a pandemic. This declaration is not meant to instil fear or spread panic – instead, it is a call to action for governments, communities and individuals to stand together to change the course of this pandemic.
Here is what you can do to protect yourself and your family:
1) Wash your hands frequently
Wash your hands with soap and water when they are visibly dirty for at least 20 seconds. Use 60% alcohol-based hand sanitiser after touching any surfaces in public spaces that may be contaminated such as door handles, shopping trolleys, lift buttons etc.
2) Avoid touching your face
The virus spreads from contaminated hands and enters the body via mucosal membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth.
3) Practice respiratory hygiene
If you need to cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with your bent elbow or tissue and dispose of it immediately into a closed bin.
4) Maintain social distancing
Coronavirus is spread via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Maintain at least 1-metre distance between yourself and someone who is coughing or sneezing to avoid breathing in droplets that may contain the virus.
5) Stay home if you or a family member are experiencing mild symptoms
To limit the spread of infection, stay at home if you or a family member experience mild symptoms such a headache or runny nose. Opt to work from home, avoid unnecessary social gatherings and keep children out of school and playgroups until symptoms have completely resolved.
6) Seek medical attention and call in advance if you are unwell
If you or a family member are unwell with a fever, cough and difficulty breathing contact your doctor, nearest hospital or the NICD Hotline in advance who will refer you to a designated hospital in your area with isolation facilities. Remember to inform them of any recent travel history or contact with a sick person.
7) Stay informed and up to date
The situation is changing daily as new information becomes available and we learn more about COVID-19. Follow only reputable international and national authorities such as The World Health Organisation (WHO) – https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019, The Centre for Communicable Diseases (CDC) – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) – http://www.nicd.ac.za/diseases-a-z-index/covid-19/
8) Keep calm and don’t panic
There is a tendency to panic as the press reports using language such as “the deadly virus’ and social media accounts spread misinformation and fake news. We know that approximately 85% of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 will have only mild symptoms and recover with rest and supportive treatment, much like the common flu.
Although the COVID-19 outbreak seems to be far from over, these basic protective measures will help to limit the spread of disease in our communities. Simple infection control methods such as handwashing is the cornerstone of preventative medicine which we should be incorporating into our daily lives whether we are in the middle of an outbreak or not.
WHO – https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
NICD – http://www.nicd.ac.za/diseases-a-z-index/covid-19/
World Economic Forum – www.weforum.org