With the Coronavirus causing panic and fear across the world, let us take a closer look at exactly what this disease is, how it presents, who is at risk and what you can do to protect yourself.
What is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses (CoV) were first discovered in the 1960s and are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans.
What are the symptoms?
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How does it spread?
As a respiratory virus, Coronavirus is spread primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the infected person’s nose.
Who is at risk?
Those most at risk of contracting the Coronavirus include those who have existing heart or lung diseases, people with weakened immune systems (e.g. HIV, TB, diabetes or cancer), infants and older adults.
How to protect yourself
- Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
- Avoid touching your face, particularly your nose, eyes and mouth with unwashed hands. The virus can spread very quickly from those areas to the rest of your body after coming into contact with contaminated hands.
- Maintain reasonable ‘social distance’. For example, stay at least one metre away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Stay at home when you are sick and try and keep a distance from others at home.
- If you do have to cough or sneeze, do so into your bent elbow (avoid your hands!) or into a tissue, which must be properly disposed of immediately.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Eat healthy food, get regular exercise and enough sleep to maintain a healthy immune system.
If you are a person with a disability and live on your own, make sure that you have a support system in place of people you can contact who can assist you during this period. For people who collect disability grants, SASSA has announced that the payment date for April has been brought forward and people with disabilities as well as the elderly can collect their grants from Monday 30th March.
It is normal to feel some anxiety and fear during this time, however it is important to remember that in general the illness caused by COVID19 is mild for the majority of people infected. Instead of panicking, we should rather focus our energies into the positive steps outlined above in order to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities.
If you are concerned about your mental health and wellbeing and feel that you need some emotional support during this time, please contact Progression’s dedicated Support and Advice Helpline on 072 780 0160 or 072 832 5075. You can also follow our Facebook page for more information and useful tips on how best to take care of yourself and your loved ones during this challenging time.