Intercare COVID-19 Helpline
(Open weekdays 08:00-16:00)
On the 5th of March 2020, the Minister of Health announced the first confirmed case of COVID- 19 in South Africa. Since then, several individuals have been diagnosed with the condition, the vast majority being travellers returning from countries with existing outbreaks. Most recently, community transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Who should be tested for COVID-19?
Only those with a risk of exposure who develop the appropriate symptoms, such as cough, fever, sore throat and shortness-of-breath.
How do I know if I have had a potential exposure?
Currently, the following scenarios would be considered an exposure risk:
• If you have returned from international travel in the last 14 days;
• If you have been in close contact with somebody who tested positive for COVID-19 and/or who is awaiting a test result for COVID-19; and/or
• If you attended or worked in a healthcare facility where COVID-19 patients were being treated.
How do I know if my contact with a person was close enough to pose a risk?
Below are some scenarios which may be considered as close contact:
• You had face-to-face contact with the person, which was more than just a brief passing interaction;
• You were in a closed environment with the person, including living in the same household, working closely in the same area, travelling together in close proximity etc.; and/or
• You were a healthcare worker or other person providing direct care to someone with COVID-19 while not wearing recommended personal protective equipment.
Each patient’s case is unique and if there is any uncertainty, you should rather speak to your healthcare provider than assuming you are not at risk. Guidance can also be sought via the Intercare helpline 086 999 0099 (Mon-Fri 08:00-16:00).
I have symptoms but have no travel or known exposure history. Could I have COVID-19 and can I be tested?
Although the majority of cases so far have been in returning travellers, local transmission of the virus has been recorded. However, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) has not yet removed travel or definitive exposure history from its Case Definition, and as such testing cannot be offered.
I do not have symptoms but have an exposure or travel history. Can I be tested?
The NICD, as well as private laboratories, have indicated that for now patients still need to be symptomatic with an appropriate exposure history to qualify for testing (i.e. to meet the Case Definition).
There are several reasons for this, including:
• Not all close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case will develop the infection.
• Many people returning from international travel do not get sick and even if they develop symptoms, most are currently testing negative for COVID-19.
• Tests done in patients without symptoms may give a false negative result, even if you are infected. This provides a false sense of security and may not be able to exclude the infection.
• Unnecessary testing uses up precious resources in terms of sampling and testing kits, as well as protective equipment for healthcare professionals.
Should you meet the travel or exposure history part of the Case Definition but do not have symptoms, you should still self-quarantine and monitor for symptoms daily.
Click here for instructions on self-quarantine.
I have symptoms and an exposure or travel history, what do I do?
Testing may be indicated and should be discussed with your healthcare provider. A doctor’s referral is required before having a sample taken. Contact your healthcare provider who will direct you on the correct procedures to be followed or call the Intercare Helpline 086 999 0099 (Mon-Fri 08:00-16:00). If you are planning to visit a practice or laboratory for sampling, notify them upfront and expose as few people as possible while travelling there, wearing a surgical mask, if possible, or at least practicing social distancing and good hand and respiratory hygiene.
The content in this article is presented for information purposes only and nothing contained in this article is intended to be instructional for medical diagnosis or treatment.
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