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First suspected cases of Coronavirus in Africa

By Khuthala Nandipha

Frere Hospital in East London and Nelson Mandela Academic hospital in Mthatha have been given holding facility status after the first five suspected cases of Coronavirus in Africa were picked up in Botswana.

The government of Botswana has confirmed that there are five suspected cases, registered at their international airport and they people have been isolated in a health facility, awaiting laboratory results from South Africa. The travelers were all coming from China. Fever, coughing, fatigue, upper respiratory tract infection and a headache are some of the symptoms picked up on the five cases.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the Coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International concern which has led to a concerted multinational collaboration to detect, contain and stop the spread of the Coronavirus. South Africa has accepted the WHO recommendations and will tailor them to the specific needs of our country. As of Friday, January 31, there is no confirmed case of Coronavirus in South Africa. The country has remained vigilant on developments regarding the movements and behavior of the viral infection across the world and continue to engage the international academic fraternity to better understand how this virus behaves and its health effects.

Livingstone hospital in Port Elizabeth was named as one of the nine dedicated centres for coronavirus across the provinces. These centres have been chosen for their ability to isolate, manage, contain and conduct research on suspected or confirmed cases of Coronavirus.

“This by no means suggests that other facilities do not have the ability to manage a suspected case that presents for the first time. It is simply a mechanism to ensure that we centralize co-ordination and data collection,” said Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Symptoms are non-specific to the virus itself and include fever, cough, runny nose and sneezing. Occasionally, the virus can cause complications of shortness of breath, multi-organ failure, and death. The evidence increasingly supports the theory that those who are most at risk are patients who have some kind of immune deficiency, whether it be due to age or existing comorbidity.

“There is no vaccine. Should there be a case detected, we will respond speedily and appropriately to that eventuality. The Emergency Operating Centre was activated and is currently operational. We have dedicated staff working exclusively on Coronavirus, monitoring and responding to all reports. We have dedicated centers for coronavirus,” said Dr Mkhize on Friday morning.

Port Health Service remains responsible for preventing, protecting and providing a public health response by monitoring the Points of Entry (PoE). Apart from distal thermal screeners, Port health officials have been provided with additional handheld thermometers to detect the temperature of any traveler arriving into the country.

“We are very confident in China’s ability to manage the public health emergency effectively and that our citizens living in China, Hubei Province and Wuhan are in safe hands. At this stage, there is no report of any South African citizen who has contracted the infection. We are aware of 2 South Africans who are currently under 14-day quarantine in Tianjin as they had moved from Wuhan to Tianjin, a neighboring municipality,” he informed.

So far 9 816 cases have been detected and over 300 people have died since December 2019 in China. According to the Department of International Relations, there are an estimated 165 students and 54 teachers living in Wuhan and approximately 3000 students living in China.

The Chinese Ambassador has also indicated that China has developed a new detection device specifically for Coronavirus and should South Africa have a need for such a device they can make 50 available upon request. The device scans and does a blood test which can give you a result within an hour.



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