As we have been made aware about the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China, the South African Department of Health has assured the public that it’s adequately prepared for active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of Coronavirus infection.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), the incubation period is about 2 – 10 days though some literature has cited up to 14 days. More evidence is needed to determine if asymptomatic patients are contagious, although the preliminary evidence suggests that, like SARS and Ebola, all the contacts reported were patients who had symptoms. Typically, patients present with flu like symptoms and a cough.  The disease can be complicated by shortness of breath, multi-organ failure and eventually death.  Most fatalities reported have been elderly people or persons with pre-existing co-morbidities, suggesting that this is the population group that is most at risk.

South Africa has responded rapidly to ensure that the Coronavirus does not become a national threat.  It is standard procedure for the Department of Health to monitor emergent outbreaks and they are currently tracking a plethora of pathogens including those viruses of pandemic potential like H5N1.

In regard to Coronavirus, due to the rapidly evolving situation in China, the Multi-sectoral National Outbreak Response Team (MNORT) was reconvened on 24 January 2020.  MNORT comprises the WHO, National Departments such as Home Affairs, Agriculture, International Relations, Tourism and representatives of Private Health sector.

The current activities already undertaken by the National Department of Health and National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) include:

  • An alert that was developed and disseminated to all provinces and stakeholders.
  • MNORT and provincial outbreak response teams have been activated.
  • Press releases have been circulated and various officials from departments of Health and International Relations have been interacting with the media and the public.
  • A hotline has been set up: 080 002 9999

In addition, below is a list of designated hospitals to prepared to manage Coronavirus cases:

Province Designated Hospital Designated Referral Hospital
Limpopo Polokwane Hospital
Mpumalanga Rob Ferreira Hospital
Gauteng Charlotte Maxeke Hospital
Steve Bhiko Hospital
Thembisa Hospital
Charlotte Maxeke Hospital
Kwazulu-Natal Greys Hospital
Northwest Klerksdorp Hospital
Free State Pelonomi Hospital
Northern Cape Kimberley Hospital
Eastern Cape Livingston Hospital
Western Cape Tygerberg Hospital Tygerberg Hospital

Basic principles to reduce the general risk of transmission of acute respiratory infections, which include the following:

  • Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.
  • Frequent handwashing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.
  • Avoiding unprotected contact with farm or wild animals if travelling to China
  • When sneezing or coughing it is better to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or arm and not your hands.

South Africa has no reported or suspected cases to date.

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