We should all be playing our part. There are some simple ways we can, and should, contribute to helping prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Photo Credit: CDC
Given my experience and public health training, and now that COVID-19 is now in Nairobi, I wanted to take a moment to discuss COVID-19 with you and how together we can help prevent the spread of this disease in Kenya.
It has been just over three months since the Coronavirus first reared its head in Wuhan, China. To date, over 180,000 cases have been confirmed across more than 120 countries, and over 7,000 people have lost their lives to this opportunistic pathogen. To date, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte D’Ivoire, DRC, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Togo have all confirmed cases. On Friday the 13th of February 2020, Kenya joined the list of countries with a confirmed case. To make things even more concerning, a few days ago WHO has officially declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. It is definitely a worrying time.
But while to some it may feel as though there is no end in sight or there is an imminent risk to the health and well-being of our families, I am here to reassure you this will not be the end of the world.
First, some of the best minds in the world are working around the clock to contain and reduce the spread of the disease. Vaccine research has been accelerated, production and supply chain networks are being strengthened, emergency response funding has been unlocked where needed and WHO has stepped up its presences across the globe to ensure countries have the preparedness, surveillance and response mechanisms and tools required to rapidly detect, contain and respond to COVID-19. It is a gargantuan task, but we will get through this.
With this in mind, we should all be playing our part. There are some simple ways we can, and should, contribute to helping prevent the spread of COVID-19. And so, I want to take a moment to provide you with some rapid, no-nonsense ways to get your peace of mind back and help keep your family and workplace safe. Let’s get started:
First, what is COVID?
COVID-19 is a new strain of Coronavirus that was first discovered last December in China. COVID-19 is part of the Coronavirus family. Current available research suggests COVID-19 likely originates from animals; it is transmitted between humans. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that attacks your lungs. For you smokers out there, now is a great time to stop!
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat.
Who is most at risk of developing severe illness?
So far, the most acute presentations happen among the elderly and those with existing medical conditions. To date, children have been those most spared by the disease. Something we should all be very thankful for!
Is COVID-19 airborne?
No! All available evidence suggests the disease is spread through droplets from an infected person. No need to panic on this one!
What do I do if I have any of the symptoms described above?!
First, don’t panic. The best thing to do is STAY AT HOME IF YOU FEEL UNWELL and call your healthcare provider BEFORE heading to the nearest health facility. Why, you might ask? You want to make sure you go to a health facility that is equipped to investigate and manage a COVID-19 case. Also, by using public transport and going to any hospital you are putting EVERYONE else at RISK. Don’t do it.
If you are in Kenya and experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, CALL the following number BEFORE heading to your health facility: +254 729 471 414 /+254 732 353 535
or toll free at: 0800 721 316
How exactly can I get the virus?
The disease can spread from an infected person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. If you touch a surface contaminated with these droplets, then touch your eyes, nose or mouth you could become infected.
How can I protect myself and avoid spreading COVID-19?
Some simple, yet VERY important steps can be taken to prevent getting infected or spreading COVID-19. Here they are:
- Wash your hands with soap and water regularly. If you do not have soap and water use an ALCOHOL-based hand rub. Think you know how to properly wash your hands? Think again. Click here to learn how to properly wash your hands and protect yourself from COVID-19! Try to develop rituals for washing your hands. For example, every time you enter a building, wash your hands. Just hop out of a matatu? Sanitize your hands!
- Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth! Seriously, stop it.
- Maintain at least 1-meter distance between you and anyone coughing, sneezing or who appears unwell.
- Cough or sneeze in your bent elbow. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow when sneezing. ALWAYS avoid coughing in your hands! Click here to see what I mean by this.
Should I wear a mask?
Unless you are caring for a person suspected to have COVID-19 or are coughing and sneezing, it really is NOT necessary to wear a mask. If you do decide to wear a mask you also need to know how to put it on, take it off and dispose of it. Keep in mind, you using a face mask takes one away from a health worker or sick person that actually needs it! Global supply chains are really stressed right now and we need to be mindful of this.
What about my workplace. Any pointers here?
Places of employment are often high traffic areas. This means more people coughing, sneezing and touching surfaces that could then help spread the disease. Here are some quick wins for you:
- Make sure the surfaces in your office are regularly cleaned with disinfectant. Remember, infected surfaces are a big contributor to helping the disease spread. Keep them clean!
- Ask your employer to put ALCOHOL-BASED hand sanitizer in VERY PROMINENT places around the workplace. You can also pick up a small hand-held personal hand sanitizer bottle at your local store.
- Encourage your employer to put up hand washing posters in strategic places around the workplace. Remember, most people do NOT know how to properly wash their hands!
- Ask your employer to put in place a temperature check and hand-sanitizer station upon entry to the building.
- Ensure your employer has a plan in place in case someone is suspected to have COVID at the workplace, i.e. an isolation room, limiting contact with the person, what authorities to contact, etc. Again, DO NOT simply go to your nearest health facility!
- As your employer to have regular information and communication sessions for the prevention of COVID-19!
- Good ventilation also doesn’t hurt. Crack a few windows!
Can I use antibiotics to treat COVID-19?
Remember, COVID-19 is a VIRUS not a bacterial infection! Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, not viruses. No matter how many antibiotics you take to prevent or cure COVID-19, it will NOT work.
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