Everything You Need to Know About COVID-19 at Home and in Africa

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses, many of which cause no or minor illnesses, such as the common cold. Some cause illness in people, and others cause illness only in animals. Usually these infections do not cross over from animals to people.

On rare occasions, coronaviruses that infect animals “change” and develop the ability to infect people. This has occurred with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) where the viruses were probably initially infections found in bats. The new (novel) coronavirus was probably also an infection of bats but is now able to infect people. The new (novel) coronavirus is officially called Coronavirus Disease-2019 or COVID-19 (because it was first detected in 2019).

COVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, linked to a live animal market. This virus is now able to infect humans and can spread from person to person:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within 6 feet)
  • Via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and are inhaled into the lungs of a person nearby
  • Possibly through touching an infected person who has touched their own mouth and nose which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales

People are thought to be most contagious when they have symptoms and are sick. There is also evidence that spread might be possible when people are infected but are not yet showing symptoms, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads at this time.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny Nose
  • Sore Throat

The symptoms may appear from 2−14 days (incubation period) after contact with an infected person and may range from mild to severe.

Testing for COVID-19 is very similar to testing for the flu. Doctors need to collect a specimen – or a sample from you that will be checked for the virus.

Health experts think the coronavirus replicates in the respiratory tract, causing respiratory illness so clinicians swab your throat, going through both your mouth and your nose. People with “wet” coughs may also be asked to cough up sputum, a mixture of saliva and mucus.

The specimen collected is then sent to a lab for inspection and results can be ready in as little as 24 hours.

There are no specific drugs to treat COVID-19 infection. People who are sick should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions.

14% percent of confirmed cases are severe, with serious pneumonia and shortness of breath. Another 5% of patients develop respiratory failure and critical illness. About 2.3% of confirmed cases have resulted in death.

Therefore, the vast majority of confirmed cases have mild infection, with cold-like symptoms and mild pneumonia. It is not known why some people suffer more from the virus than others, but those who have developed serious illness tend to be those with underlying disease, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension or cancer.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. The only way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Everyday preventive actions include:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay at home if you are sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing, and then properly dispose of the tissue.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If you can’t immediately wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid handshaking.
  • Practice “social distancing”: Avoid crowded areas or events and close contact with others and maintain a distance of at least 6 ft from other people.

These precautions apply to people travelling to other parts of their own country, or to other countries.

Only wear a mask if you have symptoms of COVID-19 infection (coughing or sneezing) or are looking after someone who may have COVID-19, to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

Disposable face masks can only be used once.

Remove the mask from behind (do not touch the front of mask) and discard it immediately in a closed bin. Remember to wash your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer or soap and water.

Stay home and call a health provider such as your primary care doctor. Follow the directions of your health provider which may include staying home or getting tested for COVID-19. Your health provider will direct you to where you can get tested. Continue to wash your hands frequently and to cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

But if you have a medical emergency, including high fever and severe shortness of breath, call 911 but ONLY if you these symptoms are severe.

What is Amref doing to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Africa?

Amref Health Africa has successfully stopped the outbreak of diseases such as Ebola and cholera. Amref is working closely with African Ministries of Health, the African Centres of Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to strengthen frontline health workers such as nurses and Community Health Workers with training. In Kenya for example, we are improving disease surveillance, early symptom detection and tracking the spread of the disease, which Amref already does in several African countries including Tanzania.

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Steps We Are Taking

Leveraging our innovative mobile phone training platform – Leap, Amref and the Ministry of Health in Kenya are launching a two-month campaign to educate health workers on COVID-19. This will enable health care workers to educate communities on the virus and how to prevent the spread of it. Using Leap, health workers will also be trained to identify, isolate and refer suspected cases as well as maintain safety standards at points of entry or high-risk areas to prevent possible transmission.

The digital training content has been customized to fit the needs of target audiences which includes consideration of skilled level of the audience, language preference and preferred channels (text or audio messages).

In Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, Amref is part of their respective national taskforces to assist the Ministries of Health to prepare emergency responses. Further, in Tanzania, through our existing Expanding Disease Protection program, we have been involved with the Ministry of Health in developing a national pandemic influenza preparedness and response plan, which can be applied to COVID-19 control as well as other international health emergencies. We are also involved at the community level creating awareness.

With our in deep knowledge of health services, our close involvement with communities, and our wide network throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Amref Health Africa is already:

  • Supporting national governments and institutes to organize preventive measures and mount responses, as needed;

  • Providing training on infection, prevention and control measures to health workers;

  • Disseminating educational materials to keep communities informed;

  • Providing regular updates to healthcare workers;

  • Advising and facilitating the transport of specimens to national testing laboratories;

  • Advising on workplace preparedness.

The World Health Organization (WHO), Africa CDC and partners are scaling up preparedness efforts for COVID-19 in the African region to implement the recommendations of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee.

Amref Health Africa has consistently supported Ministries of Health and WHO during outbreak interventions including facilitating the provision of critical healthcare to remote communities across Africa as evidenced by our participation in control measures during the Ebola outbreaks in Uganda 2000 and 2012, and in Senegal and Guinea in 2014, the cholera outbreak in Kenya (2017) and the Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria (2018).

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Awareness Information Pack

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Community Awareness

Our Global CEO, Dr. Githinji Gitahi has personally been reaching out to communities in Nairobi, Kenya to raise awareness around COVID-19.


The World Health Organization (WHO), Africa CDC and partners are scaling up preparedness efforts for COVID-19 in the African region to implement the recommendations of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee.

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