As coronavirus spreads across the globe, countries in Africa are taking preventative measures to keep the disease out.  There are now more than 100 cases recorded in 11 countries in Africa.

Egypt remains the nation with the most reported cases with 59, more than half of all confirmed cases on the continent.

Most of the cases in Egypt are among passengers and crew members aboard a Nile cruise ship coming from southern city of Aswan to Luxor.  Egypt’s health minister announced Sunday that a German citizen was the first death from the virus.

In South Africa with 13 cases of the virus so far additional testing with private laboratories and precautions of handwashing and social isolation are in place.

In Nigeria 2 cases of coronavirus have been identified.  Routine coronavirus prevention measures are in place.  Health officials are reporting that Nigeria’s experience with Ebola in 2014 has prepared the country for outbreaks such as coronavirus.  Additionally, the nation is currently managing Lassa fever.  Nigeria has set up a very active screening program and coronavirus prevention program which it is recommending to all of its citizens.

The outbreak has prompted air travel restrictions and cancellation of high-level conferences across the nation and across the continent.


Reported Cases

The countries with reported cases according to the World Health Organization include the following:

  • Algeria 20
  • Burkina Faso 2
  • Cameroon 2
  • Democratic Republic of Congo 1
  • Egypt 59 with 1 death
  • Morocco 3 with 1 death
  • Nigeria 2
  • Cenegal 4
  • South Africa 13
  • Tunisia 5
  • Togo 1


Safety Measures all Africans Can Take

  1. Wash your hands frequently after being outside of your home.
  2. Wash your clothes daily especially after being outside of your home and returning from work or errands.
  3. Avoid groups of people larger than 10.
  4. Isolate yourself at home and work from home or study from home as much as possible.
  5. Keep your environment and workspace clean using soap and water products. The coronavirus is easy to destroy and inactivate using soap and water both to wash your hands frequently and to clean the environment around you regularly.
  6. Avoid unnecessary travel.
  7. Avoid cruise ships and flying except for essential travel.
  8. Wash your clothes daily using laundry detergent. When available dry your clothes in a dryer which also destroys and inactivates the virus.
  9. Air out your homes by opening windows during the day to provide circulation throughout your home and to provide sunlight.
  • Exposure yourself to sun light 20 minutes per day as coronavirus is inhibited by exposure to sunlight.
  • Remember that coronavirus can be spread by droplets that occur during breathing of an infected person or by coughing or sneezing. Droplets can attach to dust particles in the air and survive for hours. If you are exposed to someone who is sick, leave the area immediately or isolate the sick person in their own space or in their own room.  Coronavirus can and has been spread by inhalation of droplets placed into the air and attaching to dust particles in the air until they either fall to the ground or fall to surfaces or fall to clothing on people around the area or are inhaled by someone nearby.


In Summary

In summary coronavirus is a tiny particle of genetic information wrapped in a fat envelope.  Th coronavirus can only make you sick by getting into your lungs and attaching to your lung cells where it reproduces hundreds and thousands of times causing pneumonia and other medical illnesses or is defeated by the bodies defense system.  Our job as citizens of Africa and the world is to prevent the coronavirus from entering into our lungs and allowing infection to occur.  Our job is to keep this tiny particle of genetic information which has the ability to bio-hack our lung cells and to turn them into coronavirus reproducing machines out of our lungs.

If you and I can stop the spread of this virus over the next 2-4 weeks this invasion, this pandemic of infection will stop.  The assignment of everyone hearing this message is to prevent the coronavirus from spreading into the lungs of yourself, your family and those around you.  If you will follow the measures as listed above, your chances of avoiding the coronavirus and/or limiting its spread is very high.  The survival of humanity against this tiny viral invader can be successful if you and  I participate in isolating the viral invader and allowing it to be either destroyed through our cleaning efforts and/or by its failure to find the necessary lung cells to reproduce.


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How do I protect myself and my family against the new coronavirus?
  • Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue then throwing the tissue in the trash and washing your hands.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Staying home when you are sick.
  1. What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Is it possible to distinguish from a cold or flu?
  • The novel coronavirus also known as SARS-COV-2 was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Providence, China.
  • COVID-19 the disease caused by the new coronavirus has since been identified in most of China as well as dozens of countries on six continents.
  • Coronavirus refers to a family of viruses that cause a spectrum of disease ranging from the common cold to severe life-threatening pneumonia.
  • Coronaviruses are named for the spike proteins on the surface of the virus that can make the virus look like a crown or star.
  • There are seven coronaviruses known to infect humans.
  • The emergent of two of these coronaviruses SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2012 occurred as a result of animal to human or zoonotic transmission events. The same is likely for the new coronavirus which appears to have been transmitted from bats to humans.

The symptoms of COVID-19 infections can range from very mild to severe respiratory illness and may include fever, cough and shortness of breath.  These symptoms can be very similar to those for influenza so it may be difficult to distinguish without clinical testing.

We are still learning about COVID-19 every day; however, it appears that 80-90% of COVID-19 infections are thought to be mild infections and only a small portion of people develop severe pneumonia.

  1. When should I seek medical attention if I am worried about the coronavirus, what is the best way to do that?

According to the CDC if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms such as cough and difficulty breathing call your doctor’s office, urgent care clinic or emergency department for medical advice.  This will help your healthcare provider to take steps to keep other people from getting infected if you need to come in.

In the meantime, if you feel sick it is a good idea to wear a face mask, avoid public places and stay away from others in your home.  People who are sick with a respiratory illness should wear a face mask.

If you have a medical emergency call 911 and notify the dispatcher that you have or are being evaluated for COVID-19.

  1. Should I start wearing a mask when I am at work or out in public?

The CDC and other public health experts do not recommend that people who are well wear face masks as a way to protect themselves from respiratory illness, including COVID-19.

As there is currently a limited global supply of masks, they should be reserved for care givers of patients with infections that require mask use or by patients with cough or other symptoms of respiratory illness.  Doctors are asking patients who are sick with respiratory illness to wear a mask as a way to contain the respiratory droplets that are produced when they cough or sneeze in order to prevent spreading infections to others.

Masks are more effective when worn by someone who is sick to prevent respiratory droplets from escaping.  So, if you are sick, it may be a public service to wear a mask if you need to be out and about like going to a doctor’s office or appointment at the hospital.

  1. If I don’t have health insurance can I still get care?

Yes, anyone who requires medical care can receive care regardless of insurance status.  President Trump has recently proclaimed that all patients requiring medical assistance will receive that necessary medical assistance.

  1. What are the testing criteria for COVID-19 now that there are cases of community transmission with no travel history?

Decisions about testing are currently made on a case by case basis by healthcare providers and public health departments.  The CDC testing criteria for COVID-19 were recently expanded to include a wider group of symptomatic patients after more cases of community transmission were confirmed in the United States.

Clinicians should make decisions on whether a patient should be tested based on the patient’s signs and symptoms as well as local occurrence of COVID-19.

The CDC notes that most patients with confirmed COVID-19 have developed a fever and/or symptom of acute respiratory illness such as cough or difficulty breathing.

Clinicians are strongly encouraged to test for other causes of respiratory illness such as influenza.



In closing, most diagnostic testing which up until recently has been performed by local, state and health officials now is becoming more widely available and should within the week be available at pharmacies and other healthcare facilities near you.

Our knowledge of coronavirus is changing daily.  Daily news conferences by the United States Coronavirus Task Force headed by Vice-President Pence are occurring and are broadcast on most news stations.  I recommend that you follow the news.  Stay up to date on breaking developments in this pandemic crisis that effects all of us.  I also recommend that you follow all directions of State and Federal officials who are committed to your safety.


Terrance L. Baker, MD, MS, FAAEP, FAAFM