What is the Coronavirus and how does it relate to COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the abbreviation for Coronavirus disease and is a disease or illness caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, one of many in the family of coronaviruses.

Other viruses in the family of Coronaviruses are responsible for causing the common cold or other respiratory infections. It is important to note that the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is a new or novel strain of the virus and as such the effects of the infection on the population have been widespread

Who is at risk of getting COVID-19?

Currently people who have travelled to high risk countries, or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 are at higher risk of contracting the virus.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has noted that those at higher risk of severe illness are older adults and those with existing medical conditions such as chronic heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, cancers, immune suppression or lung disease.

What symptoms will I have with COVID-19?

Most people who get this disease will have very mild symptoms, like having a cold.

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

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

In the minority of cases an individual may develop severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, difficulty rousing amongst others. If this happens, it is imperative that medical attention is sought and that you go to the hospital.

How does it spread?

Person to person contact is the main way the virus spreads. This is either through close contact or by the spread of droplets when someone who has the virus coughs or sneezes on you. Generally if you are ore than 2 meters away, the droplets won’t reach you and should not be able to infect you.

However the droplets can land on surfaces, such as tables, door handles, or ant other surface. The virus can survive on the surface for a long time (currently estimated to be between 7-9 days if not cleaned adequately and depending on the type of surface).

If you touch that contaminated surface with the virus and then touch your face, especially your eyes, mouth or nose, you could become infected.

Can I have contracted the virus but have no symptoms?

As noted by the CDC, the coronavirus has a window period, which means that after catching the virus there will be a short period where you can still be infected but not show any symptoms. So if you are asymptomatic the chances of the test being negative is good, but this can change in a few days.

What tests are done to diagnose COVID-19?

Diagnosis is made by analyzing a respiratory sample that is collected by testing a swab that is inserted into the nose and throat. The South African NICD and private laboratories have the capability to perform this test.

There are certain indications for testing which relate to the clinical symptoms that have developed and certain circumstantial risks.

If you are high risk or moderate risk, then please phone our rooms for a telephonic consultation to assess whether you need testing or not.

How do I prevent myself from getting it?

There is currently no vaccine available to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Risk of infection and transmission can be reduced by:

  • Keep your distance from others, avoid shaking hands, and take care to avoid public surfaces and objects, such as in public bathrooms and shops.
  • Avoid large gatherings (more than 100 people)
  • Wash your hands regularly, and always after public exposure or contact. 20 seconds of handwashing is required for effective cleansing of COVID-19. If soap and water unavailable, hand sanitizer with a minimum 60% alcohol content is the next best thing.
  • Cleaning your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Properly cleaning your hands after coughing or sneezing. Avoid using handkerchiefs – cough or sneeze into a tissue and discard it

Do I routinely use a facemask?

No, facemasks are only necessary for people who are unwell and medical personnel. Sufficient hand washing is still the most important defence

How is COVID-19 treated?

There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19. Symptomatic treatment may be given, for example, to reduce fever, muscle aches and sore throats.

If symptoms are severe (e.g. if an individual requires oxygen due to difficulties breathing) treatment should not be managed at home and will need to take place in a hospital.

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections and should not be used to treat a viral illness like COVID-19. Antibiotics would only be necessary if there were a secondary bacterial infection present.

What do I do if I’m worried I have COVID-19?

If your symptoms are mild, stay at home and treat your symptoms – get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated. Currently the recommended period of time to stay at home is 14 days, as you could be infective for this amount of time. Ensure you practice good hand hygiene at home, as well as cleaning any touched surfaces frequently as the virus could still survive on them for a number of days.

Should I get tested for the virus?

There is only a limit supply of testing kits therefore we assess patients to get tested according to their risk for COVID-19.

High risk: If you have flu-like symptoms AND  you have been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19. You have a significant risk for COVID-19. Begin to self-isolate and immediately call us for a telephonic consultation to schedule a COVID-19 test. Only go to the emergency department if you are experiencing a health emergency. DO NOT go to the emergency room for COVID-19 testing or treatment of flu-like symptoms. Self isolation for a period of 14 days, should include isolation from individuals in the household who are not at risk for the virus.

Moderate risk: If you have flu-like symptoms BUT have not been exposed to COVID-19 OR you do not have flu-like symptoms BUT you have been exposed to COVID-19. Strongly consider self-isolation for a period of 14 days.  You can contact us for a telephonic consultation to ask about being tested, but currently the higher risk individuals are focused on. DO NOT go to the emergency room for COVID-19 testing or treatment of flu-like symptoms. Self isolation for a period of 14 days, should include isolation from individuals in the household who are not at risk for the virus.

Low risk: You do not have flu-like symptoms AND you have not been exposed to COVID-19. Take all necessary precautions to monitor your health. Call us for a telephonic consultation if your circumstances change. DO NOT go to the emergency room for COVID-19 testing or treatment of flu-like symptoms. Self isolation for a period of 14 days, should include isolation from individuals in the household who are not at risk for the virus.

Our telephonic consultation will include a full history all the paper work needed to get tested and we will also direct you to the appropriate laboratory.

What do I do if I have been in contact with someone with a coronavirus infection?

If you have been in contact with somebody with COVID-19 or travelled to an area where there is currently an outbreak, are feeling sick, and have mild symptoms:

  • Rather stay at home – do not go to school or to another public place
  • Get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated by drinking enough fluids
  • Practice good cough etiquette when coughing or sneezing
  • Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing
  • Call us for a telephonic consultation if your circumstances change
How long does it take to get your test result? And how will you know when your result is available?

24-48 hours. Your GP who sent through the forms to the laboratory will follow up with the laboratory and will contact you with the results.

What is the procedure if I test positive?

Your GP who sent through all the forms to the laboratory will engage with the NICD and local clinicians and advise you on further treatment.

You will have to get a follow up test for the COVID-19 after approximately 14 days AND if your symptoms have subsided and confirm that your test is negative for COVID-19.

Downloadable Resources 
CLINICAL MANAGEMENT OF SUSPECTED OR CONFIRMED COVID-19
ALGORITHM FOR DEALING WITH SUSPECT CORONAVIRUS
COVID19 PROTOCOL & QUESTIONNAIRE
PULMONOLOGIST CONSENSUS ON COVID-19
AEROSOL AND SERFACE STABILITY OF SARS-COV-2
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CRITICAL SERVICES REQUIRED DURING THE IMPOSITION OF RESTRICTED MOVEMENT
TALKING POINTS 21 DAY NATIONAL LOCKDOWN
Live Interactive Covid-19 Map