A student pours alcohol on his hands before entering the campus as a precautionary measure against the spread of a new virus at a school in Manila, Philippines, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.  Picture: Aaron Favila/AP
A student pours alcohol on his hands before entering the campus as a precautionary measure against the spread of a new virus at a school in Manila, Philippines, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. Picture: Aaron Favila/AP

Coronavirus: 'In SA, luckily, we don’t really have reason to panic'

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Feb 3, 2020

Share this article:

Cape Town - South Africa’s top medical scientists and researchers are calling on the public not to panic, even though the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern.

Professor Wolfgang Preiser, head of medical virology at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, said: “My message at this stage is we are facing quite a tricky situation worldwide, but in South Africa, luckily, we don’t really have reason to panic. There are no cases of this new infection here and I believe that should cases arise, and that will happen sooner or later, then we are well set up to diagnose them in time and to care for them under the necessary precautions so that onward transmission is prevented. It is really not necessary to be nervous.”

He was one of a panel of three experts from the Faculty and Tygerberg Hospital who gave a briefing on the virus to a lecture hall packed with journalists, students and staff.

Expert in adult infectious diseases Dr Jantjie Taljaard said: “Groote Schuur Hospital and the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital are on standby if the need arises. We have already tested a couple of possible cases at Tygerberg Hospital. Both turned out to be influenza and there were no coronavirus infections.”

Asked about how long it should take from the reporting of symptoms to the diagnosis being confirmed, virology expert Dr Nokwazi Nkosi said: “We are hoping that from the time the sample is received at the laboratory we will have a reasonable turnaround time of not more than 24 hours.”

WHO’s emergency committee, meanwhile, recommended that all countries should be prepared for containment. Its regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said that WHO had identified 13 top priority countries on the African continent “which either have direct links or a high volume of travel to China”. South Africa is among those countries.

WHO indicated that the majority of coronavirus cases were reported in Hubei province in China, where the outbreak started.

@MwangiGithahu

[email protected]

Cape Argus

Share this article:

Related Articles