South Africa has its first confirmed case of Covid-19 – a 38-year-old KZN man who recently returned from a trip to Italy – but government insists it has measures in place to deal with an outbreak.
The emergence of the first Covid-19, or coronavirus, patient in South Africa has brought into sharp focus the country’s crumbling health system, as well as the high burden of HIV and tuberculosis.
But government has called for calm.
Following months of heightened vigilance at the country’s entry points to keep coronavirus out, South Africa has its first positive case, in KwaZulu-Natal, and now authorities are gearing for a massive drive to fight the virus within the country’s borders.
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The National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed yesterday a suspected case of Covid-19 has tested positive.
According to the health department, the unidentified patient is a 38-year-old man who had travelled with his wife and 10 others to Italy, and returned on 1 March.
He consulted a private general practitioner on March 3 after feeling “uncomfortable” with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough.
The practice nurse, according to the health department, took swabs and delivered them to the lab and the patient has been in self-isolation since 3 March. The couple also have two children.
The patient might have been in contact with lots people since he returned to SA and the 10 people who accompanied the couple to Italy now have to be traced, together with those that they have been in close contact with.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the emergency operating centre has identified people who have come into contact with the positive patient by interviewing him and his doctor.
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“The team from our epidemiologists and emergency operating centre is already on site tracing all the possible contacts and making sure that those who have been in contact with the patient are themselves tested while they are in quarantine,” the minister said.
Professor Cheryl Cohen, co-head of the Centre for Respiratory Disease and Meningitis at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa, said there was no data available on whether HIV positive patients were more severely affected by the coronavirus.
“If people are receiving antiretroviral treatment, it should substantially reduce their risk of illnesses with these viruses. But more investigation would be needed to confirm this is the case,” she said.
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