Colds and flu

Updated 04 July 2014

10 facts on killer flu

Here's what you need to know about the coronavirus doing the rounds.

The coronavirus, the new Sars-like infection doing the rounds is possibly more contagious than people previously thought.

Here are some facts you need to know about this:

  • Eighteen people have been killed worldwide by this new virus. Thirty-four people have been infected.
  • This novel coronavirus can cause severe pneumonia and also sometimes kidney failure. The common cold also belongs to the family of coronaviruses.
  • It is not known whether bats, camels or goats are a possible source of infection. They are all being investigated. It is thought that this virus has been circulating among animals and might now have made the jump to humans.
  • Many of the first victims had travelled to countries in the Middle East. These included Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Pakistan.
  • There have also been cases in Germany, the UK and France.
  • Most of the people affected by the virus have been older men, often with other medical conditions.
  • Common symptoms include coughing, fever and breathing difficulties.
  • It is possible that the virus is spread by droplets when people cough or sneeze.
  • These viruses can only survive outside of the body for about a day and are easily killed by normal household cleaning agents.
  • There is no vaccine to prevent the spread of this virus. It is very important to wash your hands regularly, as this helps to prevent hand-to-mouth transmission.

(Sources:, World Health Organization, BBC News)

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Ask the Expert

Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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