Commonly touched surfaces such as desks, floors, doorknobs/handles, car doors, elevator buttons, toilet seats, water taps should be regularly cleaned with water containing disinfectant or soap.
KAMPALA - The novel coronavirus (COVID -19) pandemic that broke out in Wuhan, China in December last year, has kept on spreading to other countries.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 117 countries have been affected with 125,048 confirmed cases globally of which 4,613 deaths have occurred.
Although Uganda has no confirmed case of COVID-19, the country is at high risk, especially because the virus has continued to spread to other countries. By Friday, a case was confirmed in neighbouring Kenya.
What is the novel COVID-19?
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) can be described as a respiratory infection that is transmitted through air droplets, such as sneezing and coughing, says Derrick Mimbe.
Mimbe is the technical leader for Infectious Diseases Detection and Surveillance at PATH, an international, non-profit global health organisation.
As an epidemiologist, he has supported the national task force in containing emerging and re-emerging outbreaks for the last 10 years.
"When a person infected with the coronavirus sneezes or coughs, droplets can get into the facial areas, such as the mouth, nose, and eyes.
The virus penetrates the body through the membranes," Mimbe notes.
In addition, the infection is transmitted through touching surfaces that have been infected with the virus. For instance, if an infected person touches their body, clothes, a table or doorknobs, then someone else touches the same surface and puts their hands on their face, then they can contract the virus.
Mimbe says it is on this background that the WHO prevention guidelines discourage the public from body contact, such as shaking hands, kissing and hugging.
The WHO guidelines indicate that it takes 14 days for an infected person to show signs and symptoms. The more reason why the same guidelines recommend that a person suspected to be infected with the virus is isolated for two weeks.
Signs and symptoms
Common signs of infection, according to the WHO include fever, cough, and shortness of breath or breathing difficulties.
In more severe cases, Mimbe says the infection affects the lungs leading to difficulty in breathing.
Since body organs are not receiving adequate oxygen for normal functioning, patients may end up with multiple organ failure.
"It is important that severely ill patients are put on oxygen to allow adequate circulation," he notes.
Data from the WHO puts the case fatality rate (which is the proportion of people who die of COVID-19) at 3.7%.
This means of 100 infected people about four patients die and the rest recover.
Currently, there is no anti-viral treatment for the infection and as such, patients are given supportive care by providing them with intravenous fluids to boost their immune system to fight the virus, Mimbe notes.
He advises that if anyone presents with signs and symptoms of the infection, it is important that they seek medical assistance. After, they should stay home and not make unnecessary travel or movement.
While at home, it is recommended to stay in a separate, well-ventilated room until recovery.
As researchers struggle to find a vaccine, it is important that we take preventive measures to stay safe both at the workplace and in homes.
Dr. Allan Muruta, the commissioner epidemiology, and surveillance at the health ministry, urges the public to avoid shaking hands and hugging.
In addition, offices should have bottles of alcohol-based hand rub or sanitizers placed at the entrance for people to sterilise their hands as they come in or get out.
Small bottles of alcohol-based hand rub sanitisers can be provided to the staff, notes Muruta.
Commonly touched surfaces such as desks, fl oors, doorknobs/handles, car doors, elevator buttons, toilet seats, water taps should be regularly cleaned with water containing disinfectant or soap, he adds.
In the absence of alcohol-based hand rub, Muruta says proper hand washing practice with soap and water comes in handy.
He says every home should have a hand washing facility with soap and water. This may include mobile and fixed, such as the sinks where people can constantly wash their hands as opposed to the routine of washing hands only after using the toilet or before and after eating food.
Mimbe is quick to caution that while washing hands, people should follow the crucial steps that include wet hands, then apply soap and rub in between the fingers, while paying particular attention to the fingertips, because that is where the virus hides.
After, rinse your hands under running water, then wipe with paper towel or disposable napkins and throw it in the bin.
Richard Kabanda, the commissioner in-charge of health promotion, education and communication at the health ministry, encourages people to separate the soap that washes utensils from the one used to constantly wash hands.
Additionally, house helpes and children should be encouraged to improve hand hygiene by constantly washing, especially during the food preparation process and before serving, Kabanda notes.
He advises people with symptoms, such as coughing and sneezing to manage them in a safe manner, for example by covering the mouth and nose with tissue or a handkerchief when coughing and sneezing.
Kabanda says they should throw away the used tissue immediately into a dustbin and wash hands with soap and water or use an alcoholbased hand rub.
The handkerchief must be washed daily and ironed, he adds.
Who is at risk?
According to Derrick Mimbe, from PATH, an international, nonprofi t global health organisation anyone is at risk of acquiring the infection although people with reduced immunity or those living with chronic illness stand a higher risk of severe illness.
"Some people may show mild symptoms, depending on their body's ability to resist the virus and fight it," he notes.
He adds that currently the elderly are much affected because they are frail and have lower immunity