Coronavirus: how to stay safe

South Africa is training medical professionals to deal with coronavirus cases if and when the outbreak reaches the country.
South Africa is training medical professionals to deal with coronavirus cases if and when the outbreak reaches the country.
Image: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/BERND THISSEN

With the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the country, South Africans may feel more concerned but it is important to remember not to panic. 

Dr Susan Louw is a medical practitioner and Haematopathologist at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) in South Africa. She emphasises the importance of staying calm and says that the majority of people who contract the illness will make an uneventful recovery and return to full health.

But, it is important to practice good respiratory hygiene to protect yourself as much as possible. She shared with us her tips.

  1. Do not touch your face. Your hands are the vehicle for germs and the mucous membranes on your face, or your mouth, nose and eyes, are the ports of entry. This is especially valuable if you are in public spaces.
  2. Keep your distance. Keep at least one metre’s distance from any one you suspect might be infected, especially if they display symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath or fever.
  3. Wash your hands. Your mother was right all along and washing your hands using running water and ordinary soap is one of the best ways you can protect yourself. If you do not have access to running water and soap, use an alcohol-based sanitiser. When drying your hands, use a disposable tissue or towel and avoid wet towels that haven’t been washed recently.

Despite the pictures you’ve seen of masked faces all over the world, Dr Louw says that wearing a face mask has not been proven to prevent the spread of illness. Instead, the most it does is add to the spread of panic.

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