Updated: Apr 14
As the country and the world grapples with the coronavirus (COVID-19), it is important that we are armed with information as we fight the pandemic.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) this is what you need to know about COVID-19.
What does the WHO pandemic declaration mean?
The declaration allows governments to activate preparedness plans and undertake emergency procedures to protect the public, such as travel and trade restrictions.
When is a pandemic declared?
Generally, the WHO will declare a pandemic when there are sustained community outbreaks on different continents.
When was the last global pandemic?
The WHO last declared a pandemic in 2009, for the H1N1 flu.
What is the difference between an outbreak, epidemic and pandemic?
An outbreak is a sudden rise in cases of a disease in a particular place. An epidemic is a large outbreak. A pandemic means a global epidemic.
Does a pandemic reflect the severity of a disease?
A pandemic has nothing to do with how serious an illness is. It just means a disease is spreading widely and at an alarming rate.
What can I do to minimise the risk of infection?
The virus is very susceptible to common anti-bacterial cleaning agents such as bleach, and alcohol-based cleaners (60 percent volume). Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Maintain at least one metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unclean hands.
What is self-isolation?
Self-isolation is a way to keep yourself from possibly infecting others if you think you might be infected. It involves limiting contact with public places, relatives, friends, colleague, and public transport.
I have flu-like symptoms, should I get tested?
The symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and fever. However, these are also symptoms of the flu. The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) recommends that you should only get tested if you display symptoms and have:
• Been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 person.
• Travelled to a high-risk country.
• Worked in or been to a healthcare facility treating people with COVID-19.
• A severe case of pneumonia with an unknown cause.
However, you should consult your medical practitioner immediately if you display symptoms.
Where should I go if I want to test for COVID-19?
If you think you might have contracted the virus, you can call the NICD helpline (0800 029 999) and you will be advised on possible testing facilities. However, testing is not routinely done unless it is indicated by a health professional therefore, you would need to be assessed by your medical practitioner in order to qualify for testing.
What happens if I test positive?
Anyone who tests positive will immediately be notified and put into quarantine at home or at a facility designated to manage the outbreak. You will then remain in quarantine until repeat testing shows you no longer have the virus.
How much does the test cost?
Public sector testing is free of charge. Testing can also be done at private laboratories such as Lancet, Ampath and Pathcare. Enquiry should be with the respective laboratory for their costing of the test. If going via a private lab, it is advisable to check with your medical aid to ascertain if it will cover the costs of the test.
How is COVID-19 infection treated?
Treatment is supportive (e.g. providing oxygen for patients with shortness of breath or managing a fever). Antibiotics do not treat viral infections. However, antibiotics may be required if a secondary bacterial infection develops. Currently there is a vaccine being developed.
Which hospitals will treat COVID-19 infected patients?
The following hospitals have been identified as centres for isolation and treatment of people infected with coronavirus:
• Polokwane Hospital in Limpopo.
• Rob Ferreira Hospital in Mpumalanga.
• Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Steve Biko Hospital and Tembisa Hospital in Gauteng.
• Greys Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal.
• Klerksdorp Hospital in the North West.
• Kimberly Hospital in the Northern Cape.
• Pelonomi Hospital in the Free State.
• Livingstone Hospital in the Eastern Cape.
• Tygerberg Hospital in the Western Cape.