Primary care management of the coronavirus (COVID-19)

S Afr Fam Pract (2004). 2020 Mar 31;62(1):e1-e4. doi: 10.4102/safp.v62i1.5115.


South Africa is in the grip of a novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). Primary care providers are in the frontline. COVID-19 is spread primarily by respiratory droplets contaminating surfaces and hands that then transmit the virus to another person's respiratory system. The incubation period is 2-9 days and the majority of cases are mild. The most common symptoms are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Older people and those with cardiopulmonary co-morbidities or immunological deficiency will be more at risk of severe disease. If people meet the case definition, the primary care provider should immediately adopt infection prevention and control measures. Diagnosis is made by a RT-PCR test using respiratory secretions, usually nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs. Mild cases can be managed at home with self-isolation, symptomatic treatment and follow-up if the disease worsens. Contact tracing is very important. Observed case fatality is between 0.5% and 4%, but may be overestimated as mild cases are not always counted. Primary care providers must give clear, accurate and consistent messages on infection prevention and control in communities and homes.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; clinical management; continuing medical education; coronavirus; primary care.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Contact Tracing
  • Coronavirus / isolation & purification*
  • Coronavirus Infections* / diagnosis
  • Coronavirus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections* / therapy
  • Coronavirus Infections* / transmission
  • Cough / etiology
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control*
  • Dyspnea / etiology
  • Fever / etiology
  • Humans
  • Nasopharynx / virology*
  • Oropharynx / virology*
  • Pandemics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / transmission
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • South Africa