Some governments took drastic measures to try to slow the spread of the virus as fears that COVID–19 would quickly overwhelm fragile health systems. Frequent hand washing, social distancing and wearing of masks, were swiftly introduced early in March 2020.
Due to low testing in many African countries, the true case numbers are believed to be much higher than reported. At present, the mortality rate in African countries is relatively low compared to Europe which is believed to be due to the younger age of African populations.
COVID–19 is a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS – COV – 2). First contracted in China by vendors at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market, studies there suggest that the virus is of animal origin.
COVID–19 is spread via respiratory droplets. When infected people cough or sneeze, they release droplets of infected fluid. Droplets fall on surfaces. If you touch the surface the virus is transferred to your hands, mouth, nose or eyes when you touch your face. People can also be infected by breathing in droplets expelled by an infected person standing within 1-2 meters.
What makes COVID–19 extremely dangerous is that it is easily transmitted between humans. It causes severe respiratory disease in about 20% of people and has killed 2-3% of those infected. Individuals with weak immune systems and those with underlying health conditions are most at risk and need to take extra precautions against the disease. Anyone who has contact with a person with COVID–19 is at risk of infection. People that are healthcare workers and people that have co-morbidities, such as, heart disease (including high blood pressure), chronic respiratory disease, cancer patients, endocrine disease (such as diabetes), are at higher risk of severe illness and death associated with COVID–19.
The following can protect against infection. Practice physical distancing, keeping at least 1- 2 metres from all people you interact with, especially when out in public. This keeps you safe from respiratory droplets. Social distancing means not interacting with people outside of your household unless necessary. Use a cloth mask, it helps protect you and people around you from getting the virus. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, alternatively use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser (at least 70% alcohol). Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Cover your mouth with a tissue or the inside of your elbow whenever you sneeze or cough. Throw away any used tissue right away. Avoid contact with people who are sick. Clean any objects you touch often. Use disinfectants on objects like phones, computers, and doorknobs.
The incubation period for COVID–19 is between 2 and 14 days after exposure. The average incubation period is about 5 days. For many people, symptoms start as mild and gradually get worse over a few days. Symptoms include cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell, fever, weakness muscle pain or diarrhoea. The severity of the illness can range from asymptomatic people (show no symptoms) to mild respiratory illness, to severe illness that required admission to hospital or death. The majority (approximately 80%) have a mild respiratory illness. People who are of higher risk display symptoms of, difficulty breathing, pain or pressure of the chest, lips, face, or nails appear blue in colour, confusion and difficulty staying awake or trouble waking up. If you show any signs or symptoms contact your doctor immediately and get a COVID-19 test if so directed.
People with mild symptoms can stop self-isolation after 10 days, provided there is no fever. Some people continue to have symptoms for longer than 10 days. Full recovery may take longer, especially with symptoms of fatigue, cough and sense of smell. You may return to work provided there is no fever.
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