The National Department of Health (DoH) on Thursday confirmed the first case of the COVID-19 coronavirus in South Africa.

“This morning, Thursday, March 5, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed that a suspected case of COVID-19 has tested positive,” said the department.

The virus was contracted by a 38-year-old male who had visited Italy with his wife and arrived back in the country on 1 March.

Global crisis

In humans, the virus causes mild to severe respiratory illness, which could be fatal.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently raised the alert for the COVID-19 outbreak to “very high at a global level” – the highest level of risk assessment in terms of spread and impact.

Al Jazeera reported there are more than 93,000 confirmed cases of the virus around the world – the majority of which are in China, where the disease originated.

According to Pharmaceutical Technology, there have been over 3,300 deaths due to COVID-19, while more than 53,000 people have recovered from the disease.

On 3 March, the WHO put the official fatality rate for the disease at 3.4%.

Most of the deaths were reported in China, while Italy, Iran and the United States have also confirmed fatalities.

The map below from Pharmaceutical Technology provides an overview of the most affected countries.

Coronavirus map

Symptoms and advice

The DoH noted a number of Covid-19 symptoms to be on the lookout for. These include:

  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath

Symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure, the department noted.

It recommended that those who develop these symptoms or have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 seek medical care.

The WHO provided advice to the public to protect themselves from the virus.

These tips include the following:

  • Wash your hands frequently – Use soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub to kill viruses on your hands
  • Maintain social distancing – Keep at least 1 meter between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth – Hands come in contact with various surfaces that could be riddled with viruses.
  • Practice respiratory hygiene – Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Seek medical care early if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above.
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