South Coast doctor discusses important Covid-19 issues

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Dr. Kanaya Maharaj from Connor Med in Port Shepstone has provided valuable insight into Covid-19 – from precautionary measures, symptoms, screening and testing to the difference between private and public healthcare and the South Coast’s unique standing.

Dr. Maharaj explained: “Covid-19 is a new virus that is now affecting the entire world. We know that younger people are less prone to having serious complications of the infection. However, older people above the age of 65 may be affected more commonly in a serious fashion.

“More so, people over the age of 55 with other illnesses such as Diabetes, Hypertension, heart failure, ischaemic heart disease and kidney failure can develop serious complications if they are infected with the virus.

“Furthermore, people who have weaker immune systems are more susceptible to falling ill from this virus. This includes people who are HIV positive, Diabetics, on Anti-cancer treatment, Transplant patients or Tuberculosis sufferers. We also know that very little is known in terms of how the virus affects the human body.

South Coast’s susceptibility

“The South Coast and the greater RNM is a very unique area in that we have a very large aged population. This is because we are historically the homesteads to many populations. Furthermore, many upcountry people have chosen this part of the world to retire and live out their twilight years.

“We also have the added burden of lower income in our rural areas with a great dependence on government grants. Our people who are subjected to living on a meagre income are also hesitant to seek out early healthcare because of costly travel, multiple trips to hospitals/doctors and downright non-availability of finances.

The difference between private and public healthcare

“Covid-19 is a brand new disease and every physician is as educated as the next. Hence we are all on the same playing field. The public sector and the private sector on our South Coast has made enormous efforts to be prepared for the onslaught of Covid-19.

“Both sectors have stocked up on personal protective equipment for staff. This effort has been helped by central government efforts to make large amounts of gloves, masks, protective suits and visors available to the state sector and for re-sale to the private sector at a cost price.

“Special wards have been set up in all the hospitals to manage patients potentially with and positive Covid-19 patients. Special isolation areas have been set up in each these wards.

“In my opinion, there should not be any difference in outcomes of patients admitted to either public or private healthcare facilities. However, the burdens of age, immune compromise, chronic diseases etc. may tip the scales of outcomes for both sectors.

Why should we test?

“Presently the case definition (suspected Covid-19 patient) is:

  • Persons with acute respiratory illness with sudden onset of the following

Cough

Sore throat

Shortness of breath

Fever 38°C (measured) or history of fever (subjective) irrespective of admission status

  • no longer a requirement – recent travel history to a high risk country – considered to be high risk
  • no longer a requirement – Recent CLOSE contact with a positive Covid-19 patient – considered to be high risk

“The only reason to test is to find your close contacts and quarantine them and yourself to prevent further spread of the disease. The infectiveness potential of Covid-19 is between two and three. This means that each infected person will infect between two and three people.

“If the infectiveness potential of a disease is one, this means that each infected person will infect one other person. Hence the disease will spread at a constant rate throughout the population.

“If the infective potential was less than one, then the disease eventually burns out. However, with Covid-19, the disease spread becomes exponential. Hence finding your contacts is so important.

“Close contact is somebody who has made physical contact with you, used some of the equipment you may have used or been within two meters of you for a prolonged period. Some studies say as little as 10 minutes is sufficient.

“Masks are probably best for people who are coughing and sneezing. Cloth masks are being advocated more and more. If you are using a cloth mask, please wash and iron it daily.”

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