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Campus Health & Wellness Centre (CHWC)

06 March 2020


Response to the threat of a possible Corona-Virus (COVID-19) outbreak at the UWC


Ø  It has been 3 months now since the announcement by the Chinese Health authorities of the outbreak and discovery of a new strain of Corona Virus (COVID-19), then predominantly within the Hubei Province of China (Epicentre = Wuhan City). Despite the numerous theories doing the rounds within the conspiracy sectors, it is now widely accepted within the scientific and medical communities that COVID-19 is a mutated strain of the Corona Virus, which seems to have originated from a Bat species that was consumed as food by people in the Wuhan region - China. It is also now widely known and accepted that the Corona Virus has previously been able to mutate and infect human hosts, with the ‘SARS’ and ‘MERS’ strains of the Corona Virus having done so within the past decade. To date, this new strain of the virus (COVID-19) is not fully understood, with new information and research being released by various study sectors every day. With more than 98 000 infected cases and 3300 deaths confirmed thus far across the world, it was only a matter of time before the virus ‘landed’ in SA. The first confirmed case of Corona Virus infection was confirmed by the NICD / DOH on 05 March 2020. There are no fatalities due to COVID-19 reported in Africa as yet. In this regard, the SA National Department of Health (DOH) in conjunction with the Provincial Health Services and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) have complied guidelines and protocols for the screening for infection, and the management of confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection. It is now recommended that persons who have good reason to believe that they have been exposed to the virus (recent travel to an affected area in the world – see WHO website for currently affected areas); direct contact with a confirmed case of infection and symptoms suggestive of the illness, not present to a medical facility, but to rather contact the NICD directly. The NICD will then instruct you as to how to proceed or despatch the necessary personnel to you. Contact NICD:  NICD hotline – 0828839920.


It must be stressed that this is a now a notifiable disease that poses a national threat to SA and is being monitored and managed at a national level. Facilities such the UWC CHWC are not designed nor equipped to screen for or manage the complications of such an infectious disease. Despite this, it is vital that UWC be prepared to address and manage this challenge as best we can. In this regard, I offer the following:


Current figures infected worldwide = 98 000 (most infections still in China and in the Hubei province). One confirmed case in SA.


Deaths due to confirmed COVID-19 infections worldwide = more than 3300. (current mortality rate varies between 1% - 14%)


Those at higher risk of infection and death:

Ø  Health care workers (3% mortality rate)

Ø  older patients especially males (14 mortality)

Ø  patients with chronic lung and cardiac conditions (3-8% mortality)

Ø  patients already with some level of immune compromise such as poorly controlled HIV infection, TB, Malaria and malnourished persons. (3% mortality rate).


Mode of spread

Ø  relatively close contact by large droplets as in sneezing or coughing into open air;

Ø  direct contact with infected surfaces and then touching mucous membranes such as eyes, mouth and nose;

Ø  eating contaminated food and using contaminated utensils.

Ø  there is early anecdotal evidence to suggest that cold and dry conditions (as during winter in the northern hemisphere and where the spread is concentrated for now) seem to promote the spread of the virus. Hot and humid conditions may inhibit the spread.

Symptoms of early infection: (very similar to most viral infections)

Ø  Fever

Ø  Sore Throat

Ø  Cough (usually dry)

Ø  Severe Body Aches

Advanced or complicated symptoms:

Ø  Tight chest and respiratory distress

Ø  Cardiac compromise 

      Preventative measures:

Ø  Stop or minimise travel to / from known areas of high risk – very important!

Ø  Maximise personal immunity through proper nutrition, good lifestyle habits, optimal management of pre-existing medical conditions.

Ø  Regular washing of hands, especially after touching areas / objects that are often touched by others. Minimise touching your face and mucous membranes unless with clean / washed hands.

Ø  Avoiding closed and crowded public areas. Such areas to be well ventilated and regularly sanitised.

Ø  Try not to shake hands with others. Rather acknowledge each other by other means.

Ø  Ensure that you cough / sneeze into a ‘barrier’ such as a tissue or handkerchief. Dispose of the tissue into a bin and wash handkerchief often.

Ø  Wear a face mask if you already have a cough / cold. (Masks are ineffective against protecting one from actually getting a viral infection!!)

Ø  Isolate yourself should you develop any symptoms and stay properly hydrated and nourished. Call the NICD immediately should you develop symptoms and have travelled to an affected area or came into contact with a confirmed case.


Treatment / Management:

Ø  Confirm infection in patients who present with risk factors such as recent travel to affected area/s; have a history of a positive contact and severe symptoms of infection. This is to be done at recognised sites and controlled by the NICD only. Done with throat and nasal swabs obtained by designated medical personnel at the designated sites.

UWC will have to refer suspected cases to the Tygerberg Hospital Infectious Diseases Unit until further notice.

Ø  Suspected cases to remain in self imposed quarantine until test results are back or be admitted to hospital if their symptoms warrant admission.

Ø  There is no confirmed / effective vaccine or medical treatment at present. Severe confirmed cases will be managed in Hospital by Specialist teams and as appropriate.

Ø  Confirmed cases to remain in quarantine (self-imposed or at a designated facility) until tests show that the patient is virus free for at least 2 weeks after the initial negative test.


Contact details for further information:


Ø  NICD hotline – 0828839920.

Ø  DOH Public Hotline number 0800 029 999


Ø  Tygerberg hospital Infectious Diseases Unit - 021 938 5229

Ø  UWC Campus Health & Wellness Centre – 021 959 2876/5

Ø  UWC Campus Protection Services – 021 959 9572

Ø  UWC Residential Services – 021 9592569



Compiled by Dr D H Bagwandeen

Head of Campus Health Services - UWC​

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