COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus. ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as ‘2019 novel coronavirus’ or ‘2019-nCoV.’ The COVID-19 virus is a new virus linked to the same family of viruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and some types of common cold.What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. In more sever cases, infection can cause pneumonia or breathing difficulties. Most people recover, but for some the disease can be fatal. These symptoms are similar to the flue or a cold, which are more common than COVID-19. This is why testing is required to confirm if someone has COVID-19.How does the Coronavirus spread?
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with droplets coming from the respiratory tract of an infected person and spread through coughing and sneezing. Individuals can also be infected by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus, and touching their face (e.g. eyes, nose, mouth). The virus may survive on surfaces for several hours, possibly days, but simple disinfectants can kill it.Who is most at risk?
We are learning more about how COVID-19 affects people every day. Older people, and people with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, appear to be more at risk of developing severe symptoms. As this is a new virus, we are still learning about how it affects children. We know it is possible for people of any age to be infected with the virus, but so far there are relatively few cases of COVID-19 reported among children. This is a new virus and we need to learn more about how it affects children. The virus can be fatal in rare cases, so far mainly among older people with pre-existing conditions.What is the treatment for COVID-19?
There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. However, many of the symptoms can be treated and getting early care from a healthcare provider can make the disease less dangerous. There are several clinical trials that are being conducted around the world, including in South Africa, to evaluate potential therapeutic treatments for COVID-19.How can the spread of COVID-19 be slowed down or prevented?
As with other respiratory infections like the flu or the common cold, public health measures are critical to slow the spread of illnesses. Public health measures are everyday preventive actions that can include:
- Social distancing – keep at least 1.5m away from the next person
- Staying home when sick
- Wearing a mask
- Covering mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing and without mask. Dispose of tissue immediately. Do not put it down on any surfaces.
- Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects.
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