On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. On 7 January 2020, the causative pathogen was identified as a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
Most of these cases were linked to a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Wuhan City, suggesting that the novel coronavirus may have a possible animal origin. Since then the number of cases has continued to increase globally, thus the declaration by WHO of novel Coronavirus disease of 2019 (Covid-19) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (Pheic) on 30 January 2020.
Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and Child Care has taken bold steps and stern measures to intensify surveillance for Covid-19 to reduce chances of importation of Covid-19 into Zimbabwe. Further, the ministry has stepped up preparedness in order to minimise the morbidity and mortality, should Covid-19 spread to Zimbabwe.
As of 8 March 2020, 105 586 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 3 584 deaths (Case Fatality Rate 3,4%) have been reported from 86 countries globally. However, members of the public are advised to remain vigilant as the risk is still very high and hence the need to continue taking precautionary measures.
What is 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.
What is Corona virus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses causing a wide spectrum of illness, ranging from very mild to severe, 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.
What are the common signs and symptoms of Covid-19?
The most common symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, chest pain, 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 don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. The majority of infected people (about 80%) 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. Complications of Covid-19 include pneumonia and kidney failure. People at risk of developing serious Covid-19 illness include older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.
How does Covid-19 spread?
Covid-19 can be transmitted from a person who has the virus to others who don’t have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with Covid-19 coughs, sneezes or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Therefore, it is important to stay more than a metre (3 feet) away from a person who is sick. Other people can catch Covid-19 by touching contaminated objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.
However, since this is a new virus, ongoing research is currently taking place on the methods of Covid-19 transmission and WHO will continue to share updated findings.
What can I do to protect myself and reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection?
You can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading Covid-19 by taking some simple precautions which include:
– Avoid close contact with anyone with a cold or flu-like illness. Maintain at least one metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
– Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
– Practice good cough etiquette and good respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
– Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. This is because 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.
– Avoid unnecessary travel to countries with confirmed Covid-19 cases.
– If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention early and call the health facility in advance. Depending on your history, this will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility.
– Currently, there is no vaccine or specific treatment for Covid-19 infections. Most people would recover on their own.
– Treatment involves rest and medications (like pain killers) to relieve symptoms.
Source: World Health Organisation: <https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019>