Coronavirus in SA – Hygiene and prevention measures the cornerstone of infection control

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The news of the first known case of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) in South Africa follows confirmed cases in both Algeria and Nigeria. South African health officials, including Health Minister Mkhize, however, are confident in our nations’ ability to contain the spread and avoid catastrophe.

The WHO (World Health Organization), has warned that an outbreak on African soil is practically inevitable. Despite this the Ministry of Health has assured the public that SA is well-prepared to deal with any crisis, and the WHO, have rated SA highly in various technical assessments and has expressed faith in our ability to cope.

Emma Corder, Managing Director of industrial cleaning service provider Industroclean believes that hygiene and prevention measures are the cornerstone of infection control and that the uncertainty surrounding the virus necessitates extra precautionary rigour in areas where the disease could be passed on, like public spaces, airports and hospitals.

“Since there is still lack of clarity on various aspects of the virus, such as the exact incubation period and how often asymptomatic people are passing on the virus, it is imperative that we take preventative measures against an outbreak”, she says.

Corder adds that a ready supply of surgical gloves, fitted N95 respiration masks, and sampling swabs must be ensured at both airports and designated quarantine zones.

“Personal protective equipment, hand hygiene, as well as sterilization of tools, and environmental cleansing and disinfection are absolutely crucial in an outbreak situation, as even the slightest breach in protocol could lead to loss of life or illness on a large scale,” she says.

At present all incoming air-passengers are screened for high-temperature and flu-like symptoms – fever, cough, difficulty breathing – and those that are red-flagged are immediately quarantined and examined by health care professionals at the point of entry.

Several hospitals around the country have been designated to establish preemptive quarantine zones for the virus. These sites were chosen because of their proximity to our biggest international airports, but also for their ability to contain its spread, and conduct research.

With over 96 600 known infections across the globe and over 3 300 reported deaths the potential spread of the virus is a foremost concern for public health specialists right now.

“The race to prevent further spread and the uncertainty around the virus require that strict hygiene and other infection prevention protocols are observed in any area where the virus could spread”, concludes Corder.