Will I die if I contract the coronavirus? That is but one of the questions we get asked a lot as health experts by fear-struck patients who believe that the nation might be facing an existential collapse.
After weeks of spreading from nation to nation, the novel coronavirus is now at our doorstep. Yes, it is just 400km away. And hysteria is rife, as some believe that Gaborone might be the new hub of transmission.
Ever since news broke out about the Wuhan virus at the beginning of the year, we as doctors have seen an increasing number of respiratory illnesses (common cold and flu), which is unusual as we are used to such kind of numbers starting from March.
This shift may be influenced by the fact that people are seeking medical attention now more than ever for respiratory illnesses because of the coronavirus ‘scare’.
More and more people who would usually self-medicate or use home remedies are coming to us for assurance out of panic. Following recent reports of confirmed cases in neighbouring South Africa, the intensity of fear is just skyrocketing. This goes to show that we as health experts are not doing our job in so far as containing the alarm.
These are the facts about COVID-19: It is a virus that causes a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person.
The virus was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.
The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with (within two metres) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
Symptoms can be mild (flu-like) to severe (pneumonia-like) which include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.
There is currently no cure for COVID-19, treatment is supportive (to lessen severity and duration of illness).
There is currently no vaccine against the virus, but scientists are working day and night to come up with one.
Total reported cases worldwide: 121,366
Total closed cases: 71, 293 of these 94% were discharged/recovered and six percent died. Of the total deaths a majority are the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions i.e cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular diseases.
Total active cases: 50,073 of these 89% have mild symptoms and 11% in serious or critical condition.
Africa confirmed cases: Egypt (60) with one death reported, Algeria (20), South Africa (13), Senegal (4) Nigeria (2), Togo (1) and no other reported deaths.
(Source: Wordometers last updated 11 March, 1:15pm)
Myths about Covid-19 include;
All infected with coronavirus die:
There are large numbers who have recovered from Covid-19.
A face mask will protect you
For the general public without respiratory illness, wearing lightweight disposable surgical masks is not recommended.
People with a respiratory illness can wear these masks to lessen their chance of infecting others.
Certain models of professional, tight-fitting respirators (such as the N95) can protect health care workers as they care for infected patients.
Bear in mind that stocking up on masks makes fewer available for sick patients and health care workers who need them to protect against Covid-19 and other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis.
COVID-19 cannot be transmitted in Hot weather:
COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in all areas, including areas with hot and humid weather.
Can eating garlic helps prevent infection with the new coronavirus?:
Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.
What can I do to protect myself from getting infected?
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Cleaning and disinfecting our surroundings, especially water and sanitation facilities;
- Avoid overcrowding and increasing airflow and ventilation by opening windows at home, public transport etc.
What can I do to protect others?
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- If you have travelled from an affected area, restrict your movements for up to two weeks.
- If you develop symptoms during that period (fever, cough, trouble breathing), seek medical attention to promote detection and reporting of disease and limit spread.
The World Health Organisation has declared coronavirus a global pandemic and we should all adhere to basic principles of hygiene and guidelines from health authorities to slow down and fight it from spreading like wild fire. We are the world and the world is us, there is no effort that is less important, let us not play ignorant and fight this together as one.
I would also implore the general population to remember that ‘Fear has a large shadow but he himself is small’ therefore let us not panic but rather equip ourselves with the powerful tool of knowledge in an endeavour to fight this global pandemic.
(Sources: WHO, CDC, Hopkinsmedicine, Worldometers)
*Dr Matlhogonolo Mongwa is a founder, managing director and practicing surgeon at Kalafhi Medical Centre in Gaborone