As South Africa deals with a surge in coronavirus cases, those with a positive laboratory test result have been asked to isolate at home.
“Staying at home will help to control the spread of the new coronavirus to your friends, relatives and your wider community. In particular, staying at home will help prevent spread to the most vulnerable people in our communities, who are at risk for severe illness,” says the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
“The coronavirus is spread by droplets. When an infected person coughs, exhales or sneezes, they release droplets of fluid containing virus particles into the air. Other people can become infected by breathing in these droplets if they are standing within a few metres from the infected person. The larger droplets can also fall on nearby surfaces and objects. The virus can survive on hard surfaces (plastic and stainless steel, for example) for up to 72 hours. Other people can become infected when they touch contaminated surface, then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. People cannot be infected through the skin,” says the NICD.
Stay a few metres away from other people, wash your hands frequently and cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
If you’ve been asked to isolate at home, here’s some advice from the NICD:
– If necessary, talk to your employer and let them know that you cannot come to work.
– You should cancel all your routine medical and dental appointments.
– If you have access to the internet, you can order your shopping or medications online but tell delivery drivers to leave any items for collection outside your house. Delivery drivers should not come into your house at all.
What you cannot do:
– Go to work, school, or any public areas.
– Use any public transport (including buses, minibus taxis and taxi cabs). Do not travel.
– If possible, you should not even go out to buy food, medicines or other essentials. You should ask friends or relatives to help you to buy groceries and essentials.
– You should not go outside to exercise unless you can maintain a safe distance from others in an outdoor space.
– You should not have any visitors in your home during your isolation period. Do keep in touch with your relatives, friends and colleagues over the phone, internet or by using social media.
– If you live with other people, as far as possible, you should stay in a separate “sick room” and away from other people in your household. If a separate sick room is not possible, try to keep to one area of your home, at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from other people and wear a disposable face mask to prevent the spread of the virus (through droplets produced by coughing and sneezing) to other people. Cloth masks should not be used.
– Limit contact with any pets and animals. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough with disposable face tissue. Dispose of tissues into the waste bin in your sick room/ area and then immediately wash your hands. Wash your hands regularly using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitisers (containing at least 60% alcohol).
– Clean your sick room/ area every day, first using regular household soap and then after rinsing, using regular household disinfectant containing 0.5% sodium hypochlorite (make this using 1 part 5% bleach to 9 parts water). If someone else cleans your sick room/ area, they should use personal protective equipment including single-use or utility gloves and a plastic apron while cleaning. If you have a home carer, your carer should adhere to home-based infection control recommendations, including use of personal protective equipment.
– Do not share eating utensils, towels, bedding with others in your household. If possible, use a separate bathroom. Clean and disinfect bathrooms at least once a day, first using regular household soap and then after rinsing, using regular household disinfectant containing 0.5% sodium hypochlorite (bleach). If someone else cleans the bathroom that you have used, they should use personal protective equipment including single-use or utility gloves and a plastic apron while cleaning. Utility gloves should be cleaned with soap and water, then decontaminated with 0.5% sodium hypochlorite (bleach). Single-use gloves and plastic aprons should be discarded. If you have to share a bathroom, clean the bathroom after every use.
– Your laundry (clothes, bed linen, towels) should be placed in a laundry bag. Do not shake soiled laundry to avoid spreading the virus through the air. Machine-wash laundry at 60-90°C with regular detergent. If machine washing is not possible, wash laundry using regular laundry soap and hot water in a large container using a stick to stir. Hang washing outside to dry in the sunlight.
– Shared spaces should be well ventilated. If a fan is available, point it out of one window and keep another window open to facilitate increased air exchange in the room.
– If you share a kitchen, avoid using the kitchen at the same time as other people. If possible, have your meals in your separate room and use separate utensils. If you have a dishwasher, use this to clean and dry your cutlery and crockery. If you do not have a dishwasher, wash crockery and cutlery using your usual washing-up soap and warm water and dry thoroughly.
– Disposable face masks, single-use gloves, plastic aprons, disposable face tissues and any other waste should be discarded in a waste bin with a lid in your separate “sick room”. The government officials who are in contact with you will advise you how to safely dispose of this waste.
You can end your home isolation 14 days after your illness began. Your illness began on the day that you first developed symptoms, not on the day that a specimen was collected or on the day that the laboratory test was reported to be positive. If you were tested with no symptoms (note – this is not currently recommended) and had a positive test result, you can end your home isolation 14 days after the positive specimen was collected.
After a 14-day home isolation period, you are considered to no longer be infectious, i.e. you are very unlikely to transmit infection to others. No follow-up laboratory tests will be done during or at the end of your home isolation period. Laboratory tests that only look for coronavirus genetic material in specimens cannot tell us whether you can still transmit infection to others because a positive test may only pick up pieces of dead virus.
Most people who get sick with coronavirus disease will have only a mild illness and should recover at home. You may continue to experience the typical symptoms which include a fever, cough and mild shortness of breath. Most people with mild illness will start feeling better within a week of first symptoms. Have your healthcare provider’s contact information on hand for emergencies – this could be your GP or your nearest local clinic/ hospital.
How to care for yourself:
– Get rest at home and drink enough water/ clear fluids during the day to make sure that your urine stays a pale clear colour.
– There are no specific antiviral treatments recommended for coronavirus disease. You can take over-the-counter medications if you have fever or pain. Use these according to the instructions on the packet or label and do not exceed the recommended dose. You should continue taking any other prescribed chronic medication.
– Monitor your symptoms carefully. If your symptoms get worse, call your healthcare provider immediately. If you develop any emergency warning signs, get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include: trouble breathing, chest pain or pressure in your chest that does not go away, coughing up blood, becoming confused, severe sleepiness, blue lips or face. If you have any warning signs, you or a member of your household should call your nearest hospital or emergency services immediately and notify them that you have confirmed coronavirus disease.
– Avoid taking public transport to the facility – either use private transport (preferably with windows rolled-down) or call emergency services for an ambulance if required. You should wear a face mask if you travel to seek hospital care.
Other members of your household (who are considered among your close contacts) will only have specimens collected for laboratory testing if they develop symptoms consistent with coronavirus disease.
Stay masked, stay safe. Stay home if you can.
This article first appeared on iol.co.za