The Western Cape province had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 this week, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in South Africa to 17.
The Western Cape province had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 this week, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in South Africa to 17.

Coronavirus panic: Prevention is better than cure?

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Mar 14, 2020

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Panic is on the rise globally as coronavirus (COVID-19) is spreading rapidly.

The World Health Organisation declared the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic on Wednesday.

US President Donald Trump issued a travel ban to some European countries to Americans, some conferences have either been cancelled or postponed - all in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus.

There’s been a lot of information and misinformation floating around about the virus -some of which can send many into panic and confusion. But from a health perspective, experts agree that those with a compromised immune system, men, and the elderly are at greatest risk of contracting the coronavirus, highlighting the urgency to take action to boost immunity.

Health officials have urged the public to rigorously continue with the preventative methods

Emma Corder, Managing Director of industrial cleaning service provider Industroclean believes that hygiene and prevention measures are the cornerstone of infection control and that the uncertainty surrounding the virus necessitates extra precautionary rigour in areas where the disease could be passed on, like public spaces, airports and hospitals.

“Since there is still lack of clarity on various aspects of the virus, such as the exact incubation period and how often asymptomatic people are passing on the virus,  it is imperative that we take preventative measures against an outbreak”, she says.

“Personal protective equipment, hand hygiene, as well as sterilization of tools, and environmental cleansing  and disinfection are absolutely crucial in an outbreak situation, as even the slightest breach in protocol could lead to loss of life or illness on a large scale,”Corder adds.

Dr Lisa Ackerley, a Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner and Hygiene Expert agrees, saying that the approach not only will help to protect against coronavirus infection, but the simple action of hand hygiene at key moments helps guard against other respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases.

Dr Ackerley also advocates for the concept of 'destination handwashing' that centres around washing your hands when you arrive at a destination to help prevent the spread of infection.  “When you arrive home, at work, at a restaurant, or at the gym, these are moments to trigger reminders for handwashing,” she said.  “Simply keeping your hands away from your face when travelling is also a useful tip to reduce the risk of transferring viruses from dirty hands to the eyes, nose or mouth.”

Health expert Vanessa Ascencao has urged the public to take care of their health, particularly their immunity

Ascencao has urged the public to consider the following to help boost immunity:

- Vitamin C’s role in supporting immunity, helping recover from illness, and generally contributing to improved health is well documented.

- Vitamin D has become essential for immunity and a UK analysis has found that it helps reduce the risk of infection. 

- Follow a nutrient dense diet, including immune boosting citrus fruits, don’t smoke as studies show smokers are more vulnerable to the virus, exercise regularly and get eight hours sleep a night.

- Wash hands frequently, avoid close contact with the sick and educate yourself by consulting credible sources of information about the virus.

The City of Cape Town's Mayco Member for Community Services and Health, Zahid Badroodien says, "we would like to reassure our residents that the City is working closely with the lead agencies involved, to ensure a coordinated and effective response, if required. 

"We do ask that the public please take cognisance of the key prevention messages around handwashing, but also preventing the transmission of germs when coughing or sneezing if you have a cold. We’ve also seen a run on items like hand sanitiser in stores, but soap – when correctly used - is actually more effective." 

Ascencao advises that if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early.

“Let your doctor or health provider know if you have visited an area where COVID19 has been reported or if you have been in close contact with someone who has travelled to infected areas and has respiratory symptoms,” she adds.

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