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Infectious Diseases

Updated 28 May 2020

Coronavirus 101 – here's what you need to know

As the Covid-19 pandemic is escalating in SA, it's important to have the most basic information at hand.

As Covid-19 cases increase across South Africa, it's important that we know the basic facts and adhere to the simple guidelines. Here are the answers to the most common questions:

1. What are the first symptoms?

These are the most common symptoms listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) most likely to be experienced first:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath

Other symptoms may include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Nasal congestion
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhoea (not as common but reported in 3.7% of cases)

Recently, new symptoms have been added by several guidelines:

  • a loss of taste or smell
  • discolouration of fingers or toes, or a rash on the skin

2. If it starts off mild, why do people die?

While about 80% of people suffer mild cases, older people (over 60) and those with underlying conditions such as  hypertension, diabetes, cancer, heart conditions or pre-existing lung conditions are more likely to become severely ill and die from respiratory failure.

As scientists investigate Covid-19, there are many other factors that can cause death, such as an overdrive response from the immune system, and blood clots in the lungs. Follow Health24 for the latest key studies on Covid-19. 

3.  Can I get it?

Right now, the following hotspots have been identified in South Africa:

  • Tshwane 
  • Johannesburg
  • Ekurhuleni
  • Ethekwini
  • Nelson Mandela Bay
  • Buffalo City
  • Cape Town

Other district hotspots include the West Coast, Overberg and Cape Winelands district municipalities in the Western Cape, Chris Hani district in the Eastern Cape and iLembe district in KwaZulu-Natal.

The best way of decreasing your risk of Covid-19, is to limit contact with those who may have the disease. Practice self-isolation and distancing where possible.

Follow News24 and Health24 for daily updates on the current cases in South Africa. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus in SA: All the confirmed cases

4.  How do I prevent it?

Te best way to prevent it is to practice proper hygiene. That means going back to basics and regularly washing your hands thoroughly with soap, or an alcohol sanitiser. Cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow.

Also refrain from touching your face and eyes with unwashed hands.

The use of a cloth face mask when using public transport, going to shops or for errands and going to work is now mandatory. Each workplace will reveal their safety measures for employees. 

5. What if I get it?

If you are currently experiencing symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has travelled to an affected area, you should self-isolate and make contact with your healthcare professional, like your general practitioner, for advice on which steps to next take. Alternatively, call the hotline number for more information on the virus on 0800 029 999.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has a comprehensive list of guidelines, severely affected areas in South Africa and handy contact numbers if you should have any other queries. 

READ| 5 things you should know about the latest strain of coronavirus 

READ | Coronavirus enigma: Experts ask why Africa seems to have few cases

READ | The new coronavirus is striking men and older people at a greater rate

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