Stellenbosch University
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Information on the novel Coronavirus
Author: Corporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie
Published: 07/02/2020

​The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has infected thousands of people so far, mostly in China (see World Health Organisation (WHO) link), and was declared a global health emergency by the WHO. Unfortunately, fake news and wild rumours have led to fear and confusion.

In the interest of an informed society, which is the best form of prevention, please take note of the following:

  • There is no risk of infection with the novel coronavirus in South Africa at present (7 Feb 2020) as there has been no cases reported in the country. 
  • The University continues to monitor the situation closely and updates will be added to this article as it become available.
  • Staff and students are urged to reconsider travel plans to areas that have been affected by the outbreak. (Stellenbosch University International is making contact with students and staff from affected regions as a precautionary measure.)
  • If you feel ill, and have been to China in the past few weeks, or have had contact with someone who was there, seek medical attention urgently, stating clearly your exposure and symptoms.
  • Staff and students can visit Campus Health Services on the Stellenbosch Campus (tel 021 808 3496) or the Tygerberg Campus (tel 021 938 9590)  
  • Arm yourself with information on the virus by visiting the relevant WHO websitethe Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences info page (including a podcast) and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)

  • The coronavirus family of viruses includes the common cold, SARS and MERS. The new virus was temporarily named “2019-nCoV" and is often referred to as the novel coronavirus (for more information on the virus, click here.)
  • As new research about the novel coronavirus is still emerging, it is thought that person-to-person infection occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes – similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. 
  • ​Patients with 2019-nCoV have mainly presented with the following symptoms: fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
  • The infection can present as a fairly mild respiratory illness, but in severe cases may lead to pneumonia and even death. Elderly people and those with underlying illness s​eem to have a higher risk of severe illness and death. It is unknown whether asymptomatic infections occur.
  • There is no risk of infection with the novel coronavirus in South Africa at present (7 Feb 2020) as there have not been any confirmed cases. Possible suspected cases (as defined by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, NICD) are being tested and placed in precautionary isolation. Such cases demonstrate that the system is working and should not be misinterpreted as a failure.
  • ​Even though there is no need to use them against the novel coronavirus in South Africa so far, common hygiene practices can minimise your risk of becoming infected or spreading infections transmitted in a similar way to others:
    • ​​Frequently wash your hands using alcohol-based hand sanitisers or soap and water.
    • Cover your mouth with a cloth or your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
    • Stay at home if you have a fever or cough.

 More information

 Photo: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (link for information)