Inside Covid-19: Researchers explore its silent spread in SA; perils of home-testing – Ep 76

In this episode, we speak to Professor Cheryl Cohen, principal investigator of a study looking into the prevalence of asymptomatic infection in South Africa. She is also investigating the role of children in the transmission of Covid-19. We hear from a BizNews journalist how home Covid-19 tests are easily available – but you can easily be misled into thinking you test negative when you are, in fact, positive. And we pick up on this theme with Discovery Health Public Health Medicines specialist Dr Geraldine Timothy, who gives us the low-down on the proper tests for Covid-19 – and why DIY testing is not a good idea. – Jackie Cameron

In today’s Covid-19 headlines:

  • More than 613,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in South Africa to date, of which more than 520,000 have recovered and just over 13,300 have died.
  • Eight time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt has tested positive for Covid-19. Speaking to CNN, Bolt’s manager told reporters that he has tested positive but isn’t showing any symptoms.” The news comes just days after the track star celebrated his 34th birthday, which included guests such as Manchester City footballer, Raheem Sterling. Sterling has tested negative for the virus. CNN reported that the Jamaican Prime Minister has said that “there will no special treatment if anyone has been found to break the rules stemming from a party held for the former sprinter’s recent 34th birthday”.
  • The National Institute for Communicable Diseases says South Africa’s R number has been heading down and was at 1.1 at the time the latest analysis was undertaken. “The number — commonly known simply as R — is the average number of secondary infections produced by a typical case of an infection in a population where everyone is susceptible. Secondary infections are infections resulting from a single infectious case,” says the institute. “If the reproductive number (R) is more than 1, the number of new cases will increase, such as at the start of an epidemic. Where R is 1, the number of new cases is stable over time, and where R is less than 1, there will be a decline in the number of new cases per time unit. Currently, the reproductive number is down to 1.1 as of 26 July 2020. This indicates that the number of new cases arising from each infectious case has decreased from the start of the pandemic where the reproductive number was at 1.33 and rose to its highest during April to 1.5.” Generally, R showed reductions during stage 3 lockdown indicating a slowing of transmission, however, in KwaZulu-Natal, R remained well above 1 indicating increasing infections in this province, it said.
  • According to a research letter published in the Journal of Infection, most patients who were hospitalised due to Covid-19 experienced symptoms for 111 days on average, after returning home. Fatigue and shortness of breath were the most common out of the symptoms experienced, says the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), a centre within the University of Minnesota. Hair loss has also been noted among those who have recovered from hospitalisation for Covid-19.
  • A newly published study led by the Universities of Oxford and Birmingham has found that, compared to other cancers, patients with blood cancers are more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Researchers were able to determine that patients with haematological cancers, particularly older patients and those with leukaemia, had a more severe Covid-19 trajectory compared to patients with solid organ tumours.
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