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WATCH: Dispelling Africa’s coronavirus myths


Misinformation can spread faster than any virus. Here’s what you should know about COVID-19.

Over the weekend, Egypt became the first African country with a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus – now named COVID-19.

As the coronavirus continues to make local and international headlines, South Africans might be asking how this news could affect the nation and whether the information they have read is all correct.

Misinformation about the coronavirus is spreading rapidly on the internet. Here are some facts that you should know about COVID-19.

Video by Kelly-Jane Turner

What is COVID-19?

Last week the World Health Organisation (WHO) named the virus COVID-19 which stands for CoronaVirus Disease 2019.

The epicentre of the new coronavirus started last year December in Wuhan, China at a live animal market where the virus was transmitted from an animal to a group of people at the market. 

The respiratory virus can be transmitted through coughing, sneezing or through something that has been contaminated with the virus. 

The symptoms include fever, coughing, shortness of breath, and in more serious cases pneumonia, kidney failure and death.

Should people in Africa be panicking about the outbreak?

African Regional Director of the WHO Dr Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti confirmed the first verified case of the novel coronavirus in Egypt.

 Moeti said Egyptian authorities had notified the WHO and that the patient was placed in quarantined isolation in hospital. 

There have not been any other confirmed cases in African and the affected person did not show any serious symptoms.

Should South Africans be concerned?

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in South Africa and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said it will continue to monitor the situation. 

Since the outbreak the NICD have tested 83 people who were suspected to have the virus, however, all the results came back negative. 

Myths about COVID-19

According to theWHO, there has been misinformation relayed about the coronavirus.

Are thermal scanners effective in detecting people who have the virus?

Yes, they can detect if a person has a higher than usual fever and body temperature, a common symptom of the virus. However, it can take between 2 and 10 days before people who are infected become sick and develop a fever.

Can spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body kill the new coronavirus?

No. While such substances can disinfect surfaces, they cannot kill viruses that have already entered your body. 

Is it safe to receive a letter or a package from China?

Yes. According to the WHO people who receive packages from China are not at risk as the coronaviruses do not survive long on objects, such as letters or packages.

Can pets at home spread COVID-19?

At present, there is no evidence to prove that dogs or cats can be infected with the virus. 

Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus?

No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.

Video by Kelly-Jane Turner

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