Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19.
COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but do not develop any symptoms and do not feel unwell. Most people (about 80 per cent) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around one out of every six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. About two per cent of people with the disease have died. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.
COVID-19 is spread from those who already have the virus. It can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. The droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.
You can also catch COVID-19 if you breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to practise social distancing and stay more than 1.5m away from other people.
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
Keep a social distance of 1.5m from everyone.
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid traveling to places – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease.
Why? You are at higher risk to contract the coronavirus.
Research has shown that older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others. Healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients and travellers returning from hot spot areas
Wearing a mask reduces the spread of infectious droplets, especially when someone speaks, coughs or sneezes, for diseases like COVID-19. The World Health Organisation and other experts are in agreement and advise anyone with or without respiratory symptoms to always wear a mask.
According to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ‘South Africa's progress in national effort to contain Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic’ address:
“A person who does not wear a mask could be arrested and prosecuted. On conviction, they will be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both a fine and imprisonment.
This is a drastic measure but is now necessary to ensure compliance with the most basic of preventative measures.”
** Information courtesy of World Health Organisation (WHO)
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