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Infectious Diseases

Updated 01 April 2020

Coronavirus morning update: SA deaths now 5, but 50 recoveries in CT, and lifesaving lockdown

Your latest coronavirus news: South Africa's confirmed deaths now at five; 50 people have recovered in Cape Town; and how lockdown may have saved nearly 60 000 lives in Europe.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 1 353.

The number of coronavirus-related deaths has risen to five.

Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal still account for the majority of cases in the country.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

About 1 471 South African citizens stranded abroad have appealed to the government to return home amid the global outbreak of Covid-19, government revealed in a briefing on Tuesday.

"We empathise with their plight and are doing whatever is within our means to assist them to be safe, as comfortable as possible, and to travel back to South Africa," Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) Naledi Pandor.

The minister further revealed that, of the total stranded citizens, 723 are students, 204 are workers, 224 are tourists and 320 have not disclosed.

"I cannot say that these numbers are 100 percent accurate as it is based on people who have approached us for assistance through our missions and consular services. There may be more people in need of assistance that we do not know about yet," she added.

READ MORE | Govt working hard to bring home almost 1 500 stranded South Africans - Pandor

Gauteng has recorded its first coronavirus casualty.

The province revealed that a 79-year-old male patient, who had tested positive for Covid-19, died on Monday.

The deceased was earlier admitted to a private hospital in Mogale City, west of Johannesburg, on Saturday.

The man is the first Covid-19 casualty in the province, while the number of deaths in the country has risen to five.

Gauteng premier David Makhura said in a statement on Tuesday that he was saddened by the man's death.

"I wish to convey our heartfelt condolences and express our collective grief to the family and friends of the deceased," Makhura said.

READ MORE | Coronavirus: 79-year-old man is Gauteng's first Covid-19 death

Another confirmed Covid-19 death in South Africa is an elderly pastor who was at a church gathering in Bloemfontein which was attended by five international guests who later tested positive for the coronavirus, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize revealed in a briefing on Tuesday.

The Free State Department of Health's spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi, confirmed, after consultation with his family, his identity.

John Hlangeni, 85, died at Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein on Monday.

"Hlangeni succumbed while being treated at our health facility. As it is, as has been explained before, the effects of Covid-19 are more severe in older persons and also to those who have underlying health issues," said Mvambi. 

Health MEC Montseng Tsiu has sent her condolences to the Hlangeni family, relatives and the Global Reconciliation Church in which Hlangeni served.

READ MORE | Elderly pastor dies after contracting coronavirus at Bloem church gathering

The government has conceded the first round of social grant collections during the lockdown had teething problems as there was no enforcement of social distancing in the long queues.

Long queues, a lack of queue management, issues of social distancing not being adhered to, and cash running out at certain collection points were just some of the issues faced by the South African Social Security Agency on Monday as people came out in their droves to collect their grants.

News24 reported that at the Denlyn shopping complex in Mamelodi, there was no police presence or queue management as hundreds of people with disabilities and the elderly lined up to collect their grants.

READ MORE | Govt addresses physical distancing, long Sassa queues

Fifty people, who previously tested positive for Covid-19 in Cape Town, have recovered and their period of self-isolation lifted.

According to the premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, the 50 completed 14 days of self-isolation and can now, in accordance with the guidelines set out by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, come out of isolation.

However, they still have to obey the 21-day lockdown laws, like other members of the public, and so can only leave their homes for essentials like medical care, food, cash and to collect grants.

Currently, 13 people are being treated for Covid-19 in hospitals in the province, with three patients in intensive care.

READ MORE | From isolation to lockdown: 50 people in Cape Town recover from coronavirus

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE WORLD 

Cases update:

For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

Positive cases worldwide are now more than 860 000, while deaths are more than 42 000.

The United States, Italy and Spain all have more than 90 000 cases.

Italy and Spain both have more than 8 000 deaths.

READ MORE | All the confirmed cases worldwide

Latest news:

Strict containment measures might have already saved up to 59 000 lives across 11 European countries battling the spread of the new coronavirus, experts in Britain say.

Basing their modelling on the numbers of recorded deaths from Covid-19, researchers from Imperial College London said most countries it looked at had likely dramatically reduced the rate at which the virus spreads.

Using the experiences of countries with the most advanced epidemics like Italy and Spain, the study compared actual fatality rates with an estimate of what would have happened with no measures such as school closures, event cancellations and lockdowns.

"With current interventions remaining in place to at least the end of March, we estimate that interventions across all 11 countries will have averted 59 000 deaths up to 31 March," said the report, which was released Monday.

READ MORE | Lockdowns may have saved 59 000 lives in Europe, study says

Faced with a looming shortage of lifesaving ventilators, US hospitals are scrambling for solutions and planning for the worst with the coronavirus pandemic.

Intensive care units at besieged hospitals in New York and other cities are taking an "all hands on deck" approach – recruiting doctors from various specialties to help handle the influx of severely ill Covid-19 patients.

They are also finding ways to fill another crucial gap: A limited supply of ventilators, machines that provide breathing support to patients in respiratory distress.

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration officially approved one alternative to standard ventilators: anaesthesia machines. The equipment, normally used to put surgery patients under, can be adjusted to provide oxygen to ICU patients.

READ MORE | Too many patients, too few ventilators: How US hospitals try to cope with coronavirus

From medical workers struggling to care for the rising tide of Covid-19 patients to the billions of people told to stay home to slow the pandemic, everyone is waiting for one thing: a vaccine.

There is no known treatment for the new coronavirus that emerged in China late last year and has since proliferated across the planet, infecting more than half a million people and claiming more than 30 000 lives.

In mid-January, researchers from China published the genetic sequence of the virus, firing the starting gun for dozens of research labs across the world in the race to find effective drugs.

The approaches have varied dramatically. Some teams are looking at the effects of existing medicines as potential treatments, some are experimenting with repurposing common drugs. Others are using cutting-edge technologies to fashion radically new types of vaccines.

Just over 60 days after the genetic sequence of Covid-19 was shared, the first potential vaccine began human trials.

READ MORE | Race for vaccine tests limits of drug innovation

LATEST RESEARCH

According to a new alert released this week by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, may be a symptom of the new coronavirus, with experts estimating it could be present in 1–3% of Covid-19 cases.

The Covid-19 virus, officially named SARS-CoV-2, primarily causes respiratory infection. Common symptoms include a dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath.

Recent research has revealed that some patients may also experience digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal discomfort. Sudden loss of smell also seems be an indicator of the virus - especially in people who may not be exhibiting other symptoms or meeting the vital criteria for testing, a previous article by Health24 reported. And now, most recently, pink eye has been included as a rare symptom of the virus.

READ MORE | Pink eye could be a less common symptom of the new coronavirus

Genetic mutations that put some younger people at high risk for severe illness from the new coronavirus will be investigated in an international study.

Plans call for enrolling 500 patients worldwide who are under age 50, have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and admitted to an intensive care unit, and have no underlying health problems such as diabetes, heart disease or lung disease.

Studying these patients' DNA may identify genetic mutations that make some people more susceptible to infection, according to study leader Jean-Laurent Casanova. That could eventually help doctors identify people most at risk of developing severe coronavirus disease.

"We're going to try to find the genetic basis of severe coronavirus infection in young people," he said. Casanova is an investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

READ MORE | Could gene mutations explain coronavirus cases in the young?

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Avoid contact with people who have respiratory infections

• Maintain physical distancing – stay at least one metre away from somebody who is coughing or sneezing

• Practise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as your hands touch many surfaces and could potentially transfer the virus

• Practise respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dispose the tissue immediately after use.

READ MORE: Coronavirus 101 

Image credit: Getty Images