The life-threatening virus has reportedly already spread to 16 countries – could the coronavirus hit South Africa too?
Like a scene from a science fiction horror movie, the city of Wuhan is on lockdown.
Schools have closed, public transport halted and people only venture out of their homes for food, wearing protective masks and gloves.
What is the coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of zoonotic viruses (meaning they are transmitted between animals and humans).
They can cause anything from a common cold to more severe diseases, like MERS and SARS.
The current strain is new, the ‘novel coronavirus (nCoV)’.
Commons symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath or breathing difficulties.
In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and can lead to death.
Returning from China
According to a recent BCC news report, the virus has spread to 16 countries.
Some of these transmissions have been from human to human; people have been reported to have carried the virus and been asymptomatic but contagious for up to two weeks.
The coronavirus outbreak has made many South Africans in China pack their bags and head home.
The South African Department of Health says that port health professionals routinely conduct temperature screening for all international travellers and have enhanced surveillance of all travellers from Asia, especially China.
In a recent media briefing, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said that the department has contingency measures in place to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
How to protect against the virus
When there’s a life-threatening virus with the potential to spread globally, panic is a natural reaction.
Fortunately, there are no reported cases of coronavirus infection in South Africa to date, but it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.
While health experts work on a cure, we can follow the WHO’s recommendations to reduce exposure to and transmission of illnesses. This includes:
- Frequently clean your hands using an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with your flexed elbow or a tissue. Throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and/or cough.
- If you have a fever, a cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.
Monique Warner – All4Women