Wuhan virus: SA is ready


The Citizen (KZN) - - Front Page - Dr Dulcy Raku­makoe

So far, no cases have been di­ag­nosed in Africa, but this may change.

Coron­aviruses were first iden­ti­fied in the ’60s, but no one re­ally knows where they come from. They get their name from their crown-like shape.

Some­times, but not of­ten, a coro­n­avirus can in­fect both an­i­mals and hu­mans. It is quite a com­mon virus that causes an in­fec­tion in your nose, si­nuses, or up­per throat. Most coron­aviruses are not dan­ger­ous.

Two hu­man coron­aviruses, Mers-CoV and Sars-CoV have been known to fre­quently cause se­vere symp­toms. Mid­dle East res­pi­ra­tory syn­drome (Mers) symp­toms usu­ally in­clude fever, cough, and short­ness of breath which of­ten progress to pneu­mo­nia. About three or four of ev­ery 10 pa­tients re­ported with Mers have died. Mers cases con­tinue to oc­cur, pri­mar­ily in the Ara­bian penin­sula. Sars symp­toms of­ten in­cluded fever, chills, and body aches which usu­ally pro­gressed to pneu­mo­nia.

Mers killed 858 peo­ple. It first ap­peared in 2012 in Saudi Ara­bia and then in other coun­tries in the Mid­dle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe. In May 2015, there was an out­break of Mers in Korea, which was the largest out­break out­side of the Ara­bian penin­sula.

In 2003, 774 peo­ple died from a se­vere acute res­pi­ra­tory syn­drome (Sars) out­break. There were no fur­ther cases since 2015.

Then, in the be­gin­ning of 2020, fol­low­ing a De­cem­ber 2019 out­break in China, the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion has iden­ti­fied a new type of a coro­n­avirus which has claimed many lives.

Peo­ple travel from one coun­try to oth­ers and that is how these ill­nesses can be found in parts of the world where they nor­mally would not ex­ist. This calls then for a col­lab­o­ra­tive in­ter­na­tional ef­fort to al­low health pro­fes­sion­als to quickly con­tain the spread of these types of dis­eases.

So far, no coro­n­avirus in­fec­tions have been re­ported in Africa. How­ever, the pos­si­bil­ity the virus has al­ready made its way here can­not be ruled out.

Lo­cal re­ports from the health depart­ment say Gaut­eng has pre­pared in ad­vance for a coro­n­avirus out­break.

Ac­cord­ing to Gaut­eng health MEC Bandile Ma­suku, three public hos­pi­tals have been se­lected as emer­gency cen­tres for the virus: Char­lotte Max­eke Aca­demic Hos­pi­tal, Steve Biko Aca­demic Hos­pi­tal, and Tem­bisa Hos­pi­tal. Staff from these hos­pi­tals have been trained to treat pa­tients in­fected with the coro­n­avirus.


Most coron­aviruses spread the same way other cold-caus­ing viruses do: through in­fected peo­ple cough­ing and sneez­ing, by touch­ing an in­fected per­son’s hands or face, or by touch­ing things such as door knobs that in­fected peo­ple have touched.

Symp­toms of coro­n­avirus

The symp­toms of most coron­aviruses are sim­i­lar to any other up­per res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tion, in­clud­ing runny nose; cough­ing; sore throat; headache; some­times a fever. In most cases, you won’t know whether you have a coro­n­avirus or a dif­fer­ent, cold-caus­ing virus, such as in­fluenza. In rare cases, a coro­n­avirus in­fec­tion can be se­ri­ous and spread to the lower res­pi­ra­tory tract then cause pneu­mo­nia or bron­chi­tis, es­pe­cially in older peo­ple, those with heart disease, in­fants or peo­ple with weak­ened im­mune sys­tems.


If one is sus­pected of hav­ing coro­n­avirus in­fec­tion, lab­o­ra­tory tests can be done, which in­clude nose and throat cul­tures and blood work.


There is no vac­cine for coro­n­avirus. To help pre­vent a coro­n­avirus in­fec­tion:

Wash your hands. Clean your hands fre­quently with soap and hot wa­ter or use a hand rub con­tain­ing at least 60% al­co­hol.

Wear dis­pos­able gloves. If you have con­tact with body flu­ids or fae­ces, throw the gloves away im­me­di­ately af­ter use and wash your hands thor­oughly.

Wear a sur­gi­cal mask. When you’re in the same room as a per­son with Sars, cover your mouth and nose with a sur­gi­cal mask.

Wash per­sonal items. Use soap and hot wa­ter to wash the uten­sils, tow­els, bed­ding and cloth­ing of an in­fected per­son.

Disinfect sur­faces. Use a house­hold dis­in­fec­tant to clean any sur­faces that may have been con­tam­i­nated with sweat, saliva, mu­cus, vomit, stool or urine. Wear dis­pos­able gloves while you clean and throw the gloves away when you’re done.

Fol­low all pre­cau­tions for at least 10 days af­ter the per­son’s signs and symp­toms have dis­ap­peared. Keep chil­dren home if they de­velop a fever or res­pi­ra­tory symp­toms within 10 days of be­ing ex­posed to some­one with the in­fec­tion.


You treat a coro­n­avirus in­fec­tion the same way as a cold: get rest, drink flu­ids, take over-the-counter medicine for a fever, use a hu­mid­i­fier or steamy shower to ease a sore throat. If you are not im­prov­ing, see a doc­tor ur­gently.

Edited by Thami Kwazi 010 492-5227 [email protected]­i­zen.co.za

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