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With a reported 27 countries confirming coronavirus cases, and 12 countries reporting suspected cases, the outbreak has already placed the world on a public health high-alert.

According to pharmaceutical-technology reports, “the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is likely to spread across the world with suspected cases being reported currently in 12 countries. The total number of suspected cases reported from various countries, where no case is confirmed, stands at more than 40, as of 03 February, while many other countries have confirmed cases that are on the rise.”

It is reported that the Western Cape’s incoming head of health, Dr. Keith Cloete, told reporters “The province is always on high alert. We are monitoring everyone coming through our airports. If anyone pitches up with this profile, we will isolate and move them to Tygerberg Hospital, which is geared to deal with such a case within two hours of a report,” Cloete said. 

About the virus

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported, “coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.” The virus currently spreading in China is known as a novel coronavirus, which WHO describes as “a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.” Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning that they spread through both humans and animals.

The signs and symptoms of infection, as reported by WHO, include a cough, fever, and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.

Africa at risk

The World Health Organisation has identified 13 countries on the African continent as being at risk of the coronavirus infection. These countries include Algeria, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. They either have direct links to China or handle a large volume of travel to China.

Effective screening mechanisms have been introduced at all major airports.