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NICD says early detection of South African coronavirus case was due to country's rapid viral detection systems

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has clarified that the COVID-19 indicated the strength of the country's surveillance and ability to rapidly detect viruses. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has clarified that the COVID-19 indicated the strength of the country's surveillance and ability to rapidly detect viruses. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 5, 2020

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Durban - The National Institute of Communicable Diseases has reassured the public that the fact that the first confirmed case of coronavirus in South Africa was detected early due to the strength of the country's surveillance and SA's health systems which were able to detect and rapidly identify cases.

On Thursday, the Health Ministry announced that a 38-year old man from KwaZulu-Natal who travelled to Italy had tested positive for coronavirus. 

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"The case has been isolated and containment measures are ongoing including the monitoring of contacts. It is important to note that the identification of a single imported case in a traveller from an area with widespread community transmission does not mean that COVID-19 is currently spreading in South African communities. The risk to the general community of acquiring COVID-19 remains low," the Institute said. 

The NICD stressed that the evidence available to date suggested that the vast majority of cases of COVID-19 ( less than 80%) have mild illness and severe illness is predominantly in the elderly and those with underlying illnesses who are also at risk of other respiratory infections.

"We urge South Africans to reduce the risk of acquiring COVID-19 and other respiratory infections by practising good hand hygiene: frequent correct hand washing, cough hygiene, staying at home when ill and keeping distance away from sick people with respiratory illness," the NICD said. 

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The institution said the influenza season is approaching and the influenza vaccine will soon be widely available. 

"The NICD wishes to encourage the public to get the influenza vaccine to reduce the chance of illness which may be confused with COVID-19 as influenza presents similar signs as COVID-19. The Influenza vaccine is especially recommended for individuals who fall into the risk groups for severe influenza illness which includes the elderly, those with underlying illness including HIV positive persons and pregnant women," the Institution said. 

"It is through the cooperation of healthcare workers and professionals in many other sectors that we will be able to contain and mitigate COVID-19 going forward," the NICD said. 

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