Coronaviruses (CoV) 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. This new coronavirus originated in Hubei Province, China and the disease caused by the virus is named COVID-19. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
COVID-19 is most likely to spread from person-to-person through:
- close contact with a person while they are infectious or in the 24 hours before their symptoms appeared
- close contact with a person with a confirmed infection who coughs or sneezes
- touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles or tables) contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with a confirmed infection, and then touching your mouth or face.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other colds and flus and include respiratory symptoms such as:
- sore throat
- shortness of breath
- difficulty breathing
While coronavirus is of concern, it is important to remember that most people displaying these symptoms are likely suffering with a cold or other respiratory illness – not coronavirus.
In more severe coronavirus cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.
Some people who are infected may not get sick at all, some will get mild symptoms from which they will recover easily, and others may become very ill, very quickly. From previous experience with other coronaviruses, the people at most risk of serious infection are:
*At this stage the risk to children and babies, and the role children play in the transmission of COVID-19, is not clear. However, there has so far been a low rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, relative to the broader population.
- people with compromised immune systems or pre-existing health conditions
- elderly people
- people with chronic medical conditions
- people in detention facilities
- very young children and babies*
Protect yourself and others against all viral respiratory infections by practising: good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene; recommended cough/sneeze method (i.e. use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze and bin used tissues as quickly as possible or cough into your elbow) and social distancing/keeping your distance from others when you are sick is the best defence against most viruses. Exercise personal responsibility for social distancing measures.
- Hand hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for not less than 30 seconds
- Social distancing:Always keep a minimum of one metre from people especially those who are coughing or sneezing. Avoid shaking hands with anybody. As more countries go on lock-down avoid social gatherings
- Protecting others:only use a face mask if you believe to have any upper respiratory infection. Self-isolate if you have a cough, fever, especially when it is accompanied by fatigue
You do not need to wear a mask if you are healthy. While the use of masks can help to prevent transmission of disease from infected patients to others, masks are not currently recommended for use by healthy members of the public for the prevention of infections like coronavirus. We recommend making those masks in limited supply available to health care workers who are working on the frontline.
Working from home – Develop a schedule of work with your line manager and agree on how to deliver the work. From departmental whatsApp groups to facilitate group discussions, explore also online platforms to manage team tasks such as Microsoft planner, Trello, Slack, and gotomeetings, zoom and skype for teleconferencing. Have check-ins with your line manager at regular intervals.
Meetings and travel – The AAS has stopped, and recommends that all researchers it supports, to postpone or cancel all work-related travel until advised otherwise. All physical meetings planned by the AAS are suspended until further notice. Other meetings have been moved onto virtual platforms.
- Share credible information: Avoid sharing any rumours or false information to others. It is everyone’s responsibility to share credible information on the virus and avoid forwarding messages on Whatsapp or other social platforms before they are fact checked
- Get tested and self-quaratine if you: have returned from overseas in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever; have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days and you develop respiratory illness with or without fever; have severe community-acquired pneumonia and there is no clear cause; are a healthcare worker who works directly with patients and you have a respiratory illness and a fever
- Consider the healthcare system: It is important to remember that many people with symptoms similar to COVID-19 will not have the virus. Only suspected cases are tested to ensure healthcare systems are not put under strain and cope with the healthcare demand. There is no need to test people who feel well and do not meet the criteria above
- Social distancing and self-quarantine: If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you must stay at home to prevent it spreading to other people. You might also be asked to stay at home if you may have been exposed to the virus.
Social distancing includes ways to stop or slow the spread of infectious diseases. It means less contacts between you and other people. Social distancing is important because COVID-19 is most likely to spread from person-to-person through:
- direct close contact with a person while they are infectious or in the 24 hours before their symptoms appeared
- close contact with a person with a confirmed infection who coughs or sneezes, or
- touching objects or surfaces (such as doorknobs or tables) contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with a confirmed infection, and then touching your mouth or face.
- So, the more space between you and others, the harder it is for the virus to spread.
There is no specific treatment for coronaviruses. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Most of the symptoms can be treated with supportive medical care.
If you are based in Kenya and believe you have been exposed to, or have COVID-19, you should phone for advice,
Kenya Ministry of Health - 0800 721 316 (toll free); 0729 471 414; 0732 353 535 or
AAR – 0709 701 000 or
Aga Khan Hospital Corona Virus helpline – 0709 931 700 or
MP Shah hotline – 0722 204 427; 0733 606 113.
Please be on the look out for other African Helpline contacts. If you have concerns about your health, speak to your doctor.
For the latest advice, information and resources, go to WHO and/orAfrica CDCwebsites