With all the talk about coronavirus, should I go to the doctor if I have a cough?



Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of the coronavirus include:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness.

The symptoms are similar to those occurring in other illnesses that are much more common in Africa, such as the common cold and flu or more harmful problems like tuberculosis or Tb.


When you should be concerned?

Catching the common cold or the flu may be mildly concerning. But generally, the symptoms associated with these conditions resolve with rest and use of some home remedies.

However, you should be moderately to highly concerned, if having peviously enjoyed good health, you then have a cough with high fever and breathing problems following recent travel to a coronavirus infected area or you suspect or believe you have been in recent contact with someone who has.


Countries with confirmed cases

Coronavirus or COVID-19 as it is now officially called, has been reported in well over 120 countries globally (see regularly updated map here and here) with the United States, Spain, Italy, France and United Kingdom having the highest number of confirmed cases and relative deaths respectively. The global confirmed case count is 3.038,768 as at April 28, 2020, of which 214,929 have died. 

The top five ountries on the African continent reporting highest confirmed cases and deaths (in parenthesis) as at April 28, 2020 are; Egypt, 5,042 (359), South Africa, 4,793 (90), Morocco, 4,246 (163), Algeria, 3,517 (432) and Cameroon, 1705 (58). Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa has reported 1.337 confirmed cases with 40 deaths to-date. 


So, what do you do if you have a cough today?

Although your doctor has the most authoritative say, the most appropriate lay advice for anyone in Africa with a recent cough complaint would be as follows:

1. If you are normally in good health and have a cough, with mild aches and pains but without significant fever and breathing problems, rest at home and use common home remedies like over-the-counter pain killers (paracetamol), cough syrup and drink plenty of fluids. If your symptoms persist for more than three days, call or go see your doctor.


2. If however you have recently travelled to areas affected by the coronavirus, or you suspect or believe you may have been in recent contact with someone who is suspected to have the infection, you should:

  • Stay indoors, rest, drink adequate fluid and avoid contact with other people as you would with a typical flu.
  • Call your doctor to inform him or her of your concern, or recent travel to a coronavirus infected area or contact with a suspected infected person as the case may be.
  • Also call your closest public health disease control office and provide them with the same information you gave to your doctor.


Additional information

More up-to-date and accurate information about various aspects of the coronavirus can be found here


Published: March 1, 2020.

Updated:April 28, 2020

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