Stellenbosch University chief virologist Professor Wolfgang Preiser Picture: Supplied
Stellenbosch University chief virologist Professor Wolfgang Preiser Picture: Supplied

Don’t panic, get a flu shot if at risk – virologist says of coronavirus

By Yolisa Tswanya Time of article published Mar 12, 2020

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Cape Town – As the number of Covid-19 cases in the country rises, a virologist has lauded South Africa’s response and reiterated that there is no need for panic.

Stellenbosch University chief virologist Professor Wolfgang Preiser said countries like Italy and others in Europe may have been caught off guard, which explains the exponential growth in their recorded fatalities and diagnosed cases.

Preiser said the panic and hysteria were counterproductive.

“Amazingly, many countries were not ready to deal with it. Many people were worried about African countries, but Japan, Korea, Italy and Washington State also experienced major issues. The USA even, due to not being able to test enough people fast enough.”

He said the South African government was responding to the outbreak adequately.

“Cases are recognised early and dealt with as needed. The system seems to be working. There’s not much one can do but prepare for an outbreak, which many institutions are doing,” Preiser said.

He said it was unlikely the virus would die out, as it had spread too far.

“In the northern hemisphere, warmer weather will bring temporary relief until next winter, but we are heading for winter, so may be relatively lucky right now. All cases identified early enough should be isolated, and contacts quarantined. I personally don’t think this is likely to be possible still - it’s spread too far.”

Preiser added that it would be useful for high-risk groups like the elderly and chronically ill to get flu shots.

“In case there’s a Covid-19 outbreak, health care will be under severe strain.

“The fewer flu cases, the better. Should someone get both together, especially if they belong to one of the risk groups, it would likely cause serious illness. Also, the two disease are very similar in the way they present.

“So one could have flu but be suspected of having the coronaviruses and be put in isolation while being tested, etc. So, many reasons to get the flu shot; and most of all, it can save lives, even without the coronavirus.”

advised. “Those who are symptomatic have started receiving treatment. Some of these patients are already in hospital, while some - specifically those who are asymptomatic - are in self-quarantine.

“Contact tracing has also started for all these cases. It is also noteworthy that to date, 642 tests have been conducted. More information relating to these cases will be communicated.

“We also request that the privacy of the patients and the families continues to be observed by the media and members of the public”.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the Department of Health are at the forefront of tackling the Covid-19 virus in the country, and anyone who presents flu-like symptoms can call its dedicated Coronavirus Hotline at 0800 029 999.

A health team led by the SANDF departed for Wuhan, the epicentre of Covid-19 in China, to evacuate more than 100 South Africans on Tuesday.

WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last night the number of cases outside China had increased 13-fold over the past two weeks.

He said it was still not too late for governments to have an impact.

“All countries can change the course of this pandemic. We’re in this together to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world. It’s doable,” he said.

In another development last night, the World Economic Forum (WEF) announced a Covid-19 action platform to mitigate the economic fallout as a result of the global outbreak .

WEF founder and executive chairperson Klaus Schwab said the action platform will catalyse private-sector support for the global public health response to Covid-19, and to do so at the scale and speed required to protect lives and livelihoods, aiming to find ways to help end the global emergency as soon as possible.

Cape Times

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