Last updated: 20 March 2020
There is a lot of information flowing around on the internet about the global coronavirus pandemic. This page aims to provide accurate and relevant information for Malawians.
What is Coronavirus Disease of 2019 (COVID 19)?
COVID-19 is an acute respiratory viral illness most often causing fever, cough, flu-like symptoms, and in severe cases shortness of breath requiring hospitalization and sometimes death. It is caused by a type of newly identified coronavirus called SARS – COV-2, first identified in China in December 2019. It has now spread to all continents including Africa, affecting 181 countries. Over 200,000 people have been infected, resulting in over 10,000 deaths.
How is it transmitted?
COVID-19 is highly contagious through person-to-person transmission. It can be transmitted even by patients who have a mild case and do not exhibit symptoms. It is transmitted from people who have the virus through:
- Physical contact with an infected person (within 1 metre)
- Contact with droplets from an infected person’s exhaling, coughing or sneezing and body fluids (like blood, sweat, saliva and vomitus).
- Touching surfaces that an infected person has touched, and then touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth.
- Using clothes, beddings, or skin piercing instruments that have been used by an infected person.
- Eating infected meat and meat products that have not been cooked very thoroughly.
How long does it take for one to become sick?
The incubation period (period from infection to onset of symptoms) is about 14 days. The infected person can transmit the disease to another person even if they have not started to show symptoms. But the risk of getting infection from someone who is not infected is low.
What are the signs and symptoms of Coronavirus?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. However, some patients have muscle aches, runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, and or diarrhoea. Most people recover from the disease without needing special treatment and others become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.
Roughly 1 out of every 6 people infected with COVID-19 becomes seriously ill. Older people and those with underlying medical problems such as chronic respiratory conditions, heart problems, diabetes, and other causes of low immunity are especially vulnerable.
What do I do if I get sick?
If you have developed some of the symptoms listed above, but they are mild, please take the following steps to avoid spreading the illness to others:
- Stay home when you are sick
- When coughing or sneezing cover your mouth with a flexed elbow or tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Avoid close contact with others
If you have also recently travelled or been in contact with someone with COVID-19, please report your situation to the Ministry of Health on the Hotline 0887 371 288.
If your symptoms become more serious, particularly if you have difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention immediately.
How can I help protect myself and my family?
There are simple everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:
- Avoid close contact with people who are visibly sick with flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, sneezing), and stay at least 1 metre (3 feet) away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Limit physical contact with other people, even hand shaking. Limit large group gatherings.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean household surfaces and phones with antibacterial cleaner on a frequent basis.
- If you have traveled outside of Malawi recently, it is of utmost importance that you be compliant to the Malawi Ministry of Health’s guidelines to self-quarantine at home for 14 days if you have come from anywhere in SADC, from the EU, or any other countries with confirmed local transmission
- Avoid travel outside the country.
How can Health Workers protect themselves?
By implementing standard universal precautions such as handwashing and correct use of the standard personal protective equipment (PPE) e.g. examination gloves, surgical masks and gowns, for all patients at all times.
When treating suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, additional PPE for health care workers such as gloves, face shield/googles, face masks, scrubs and gown are required. A particulate respirator (N95 or higher) should be worn when performing aerosol generating procedures.
Is there a vaccine or treatment?
There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID 19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
There is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID 19. People with Coronavirus Disease of 2019 can seek medical care to help relieve symptoms and manage complications. The current management protocols include the use of adaptation of Management of Coronaviruses such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.
Current Situation in Malawi
Malawi has no confirmed case as of now. However, Malawi’s neighboring countries of Tanzania and Zambia have recorded cases from 16 March. Travelers are still allowed to travel into Malawi as long as they adhere to self-quarantine (isolation) regulations. March 17 was the first day Malawi was able to test for COVID-19.
The Government of Malawi has a task force in place and is preparing 7 emergency treatment centers where positive COVID-19 cases with patients requiring hospitalization will be sent. The centers are in Lilongwe (KCH), Dedza, Blantyre (QECH), Mchinji, Mwanza, Mzuzu and Karonga.
For those who have mild symptoms, they will be encouraged to isolate at home and recover away from health facilities. It may be required that you stay home for 14 days to be monitored at home. However if you develop shortness of breath, or high fever that is not improved with paracetamol, you must seek medical attention.
Partners in Hope
Partners in Hope is not a designated treatment center for COVID-19. However, we have a task force in place to ensure that we follow all recommended protocols for handling this disease. We have also instituted hand washing at all our major points of entry at our facility in Lilongwe.
COVID-19 toll free: 0887371288
Lilongwe DHO: 0999934523
Blantyre DHO: 0999520319
Society of Medical Doctors (SMD): 0884286991
Links and Downloads
The Ministry of Health in Malawi is posting regular updates about coronovirus in the country on their Facebook page at https://facebook.com/malawimoh/.
They have also produced brochures about the virus in both Chichewa and English.
The World Health Organization provides good global information on the coronavirus pandemic. Click the following links to read more.