Q&A about the coronavirus with a medical professional

by Lauryn Morris

The coronavirus has been on everybody’s mind for the past few months and has caused a Worldwide pandemic. Many people do not know much about the virus and the growing death toll is putting everyone in panic mode.

Dr Helen Sommerville-Morris is a family physician, a doctor who has undergone speciality training in the broad discipline of primary care, has answered some of the pressing questions that surround this disease in order to shed more light on the current situation.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

There are many symptoms that can develop from the virus but the main ones to look out for are: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, body aches, diarrhoea and fatigue.

Does washing your hands and using sanitiser actually help?


Yes it does help and make a big difference because if your hands are clean you cannot transmit the virus.

What does wearing a mask accomplish?

The virus is airborne but not aerosol. An aerosol will spread meters from you when you cough or sneeze but the droplets in covid are heavy and will only fall a meter and a half at most. The mask protects you from these droplets.

What are the main problems you as a medical professional see with the virus?

We do not know enough about it. The more we know the easier it will be to create a vaccine and treat patients.

Is it stressful to handle COVID-19 cases and if so why?

Yes, because you can become infected and lose the ability to help others as well as putting yourself at risk. As a doctor it is very hard to just lie back while others are suffering even if you know you are too sick to help.

How long do you think we will have to wait for a vaccine?

18 months at least because the process of testing and creating a vaccine is on average that long.

Considering other diseases like the Black Death caused more mortalities than this virus why is the coronavirus such a big deal?

The difference is that even though the mortality rate was higher it did not spread so quickly. This virus was able to travel across the world in a matter of months whereas the Black Death was contained to one region.

Do you think the fact that travel today is so advanced it caused the virus to move quicker?

Absolutely! The fact that we have more transport and travel between countries aided the virus to spread the way it has.

Who is most at risk to this virus?

The older population because they have co-morbidities like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Also people with immune-deficiency like cancer patients.

It has been wildly publicised that children are at a lower risk; can you explain why they have a lower risk than other?

Young children may not be susceptible to this disease as much as one would think. This appears to be that ACE 2 which the virus attaches itself to are less expressed in children than in adults.

Do you think the medical boards are handling this efficiently?

No, because they are not taking input from all medical parties into account. There is also a lack of information sharing between medical professionals and the medical board of South Africa.

Lastly, what should someone do if they think they are experiencing symptoms of corona virus?

Self isolate and quarantine yourself. Make sure you wear a mask. Take responsibility for yourself and for the people around you and protect them.


This has hopefully answered some of the questions that people want to know surrounding the coronavirus and what to do if you may be experiencing some of the symptoms of this virus.


This pandemic is not over yet and despite the difficulties everyone needs to do their part in order to keep our fellow South Africans safe! Stay safe, stay home and stay healthy.

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