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COVID-19 Explained: Your FAQs, Answered

When the first cases of coronavirus disease were reported in South Africa, ER24 was ready to respond.

The World Health Organization (WHO) first reported a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, on 31 December 2019. Since then, the disease has spread rapidly across the world, and the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic on 11 March 2020.

“When coronavirus disease (COVID-19) first emerged in South Africa members of the public didn’t have accurate information about it and certainly didn’t know with certainty whether they qualified for testing,” says Dr Robyn Holgate: Chief Medical Officer at ER24. “Mediclinic’s Emergency Centres were flooded with calls from anxious and confused South Africans, clamoring for clarity: I’ve just returned from overseas, should I be tested? We used cutting-edge technology to make this information readily available – and in a matter of hours.”

The assessment asks 24 questions, and provides an in-depth evaluation of your risk profile, including clinical criteria, chronic or pre-existing conditions, patterns of close contact, travel history and extent of exposure to healthcare settings. It is then able to categorise the severity of your case and make a recommendation accordingly, even referring you to an ER24 emergency resource officer for immediate medical assistance through the Mediclinic COVID-19 Hotline, 0860 24 00 24.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Most people who get this disease will have very mild symptoms, like having a cold. However some people who have other illnesses, such as heart disease, chronic lung diseases or kidney diseases may become sicker.

People who develop COVID-19 generally have the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches

In very severe cases, people who have the infection might start to have difficulties breathing, or feel very short of breath. If this happens, they should go to the hospital.

How is the virus spread?

The virus can be spread by droplets when someone who has the virus coughs or sneezes on you. Generally if you are more than two metres away, the droplets won’t reach you, and should not be able to infect you. However, those droplets can land on surfaces, like a table, or a door handle, or any other surface. It can survive on the surface for a long time, and if you touch that surface with the virus, and then touch your face, especially your eyes, mouth or nose, you could become infected.

Reduce the risk by reducing personal contact – such as shaking hands – and cleaning your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and after coughing or sneezing.

How can COVID-19 infection in humans be prevented?

Because the virus is spread by droplets and touching surfaces that have been exposed to the virus, you should do the following to prevent getting infected:

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water – normal soap and water is enough to kill the virus, you don’t need special antibacterial soaps
  • If you can’t wash your hands, use an alcohol hand gel or liquid that contains at least 60% alcohol – the alcohol in the gel will be enough to kill the virus
  • Do not touch your face if you have not washed your hands
  • Practice good cough etiquette – don’t use your hands to cover your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze – use the crook of your elbow, or a tissue when coughing and sneezing, and throw the tissue away after you have used it. Then you need to wash your hands
  • Avoid spending time with people who are sick – sick people should stay at home
  • If you are in a public area, try to maintain a distance of at least two metres from other people
  • Avoid shaking hands or hugging other people if they are sick

Call the Mediclinic COVID-19 Hotline on 0860 24 00 24 for assistance.