Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of virus that includes the common cold, SARS and MERS. The most recent COVID-19 outbreak involves a new strain that previously had not been identified in humans.

 Main Signs and Symptoms 

  • Coughing/Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Pneumonia
  • Difficulty breathing 

How is Coronavirus Transmitted? 

The virus lives in the droplet of water in an infected person’s respiratory system. If they sneeze, cough or touch their mouth, these particles can spread. These particles can then land in the mouth or nose of uninfected people or be inhaled. 

How to Protect Yourself

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available. This is particularly important after taking public transport.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home and work environment.

Treatment

There is no known treatment for COVID-19, nor has a vaccine been developed.

The Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is the testing centre for COVID-19 in The Gambia. COVID-19 testing is facilitated by our partners at the Ministry of Health.

Our target turnaround time (TAT) for providing test results to the Ministry of Health is 24 hours from when the sample is received at our Unit in Fajara. The waiting period for samples collected from remote locations would include the time it took to deliver them to the lab. 

Please note that the current waiting period internationally ranges from 2 to 4 days or more. For example, Public Health Ontario Canada has a TAT of 4 days, and some commercial test providers in South Africa indicate 2-4 days TAT.

This page will be updated daily to provide information on the number of tests conducted, and the results from these tests. Do check back regularly to stay updated on our COVID-19 diagnostics support to the Ministry of Health.  

9 April 2020

Samples Tested     –      New: 6 Suspected Cases Tested –  New: 6
                                   Total: 199                                          Total: 184
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0   Cases Tested Negative –   New: 6
                                       Total: 4                                          Total: 180

8 April 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 21 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 19
                                   Total: 193                                          Total: 178
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0   Cases Tested Negative –  New: 19
                                       Total: 4                                          Total: 174

7 April 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 39 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 39
                                   Total: 172                                          Total: 159
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0   Cases Tested Negative – New: 38*
                                       Total: 4                                          Total: 154

*The results for one of the samples was inconclusive. A retest will be done for a final result.

6 April 2020

Samples Tested     –      New: 3 Suspected Cases Tested –  New: 3
                                   Total: 133                                          Total: 120
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0   Cases Tested Negative –  New: 3
                                       Total: 4                                          Total: 116

3 April 2020

Samples Tested     –      New: 5 Suspected Cases Tested –  New: 5
                                   Total: 130                                          Total: 117
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0   Cases Tested Negative –  New: 5
                                       Total: 4                                          Total: 113

2 April 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 16 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 14
                                   Total: 125                                          Total: 112
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0   Cases Tested Negative – New: 14
                                       Total: 4                                          Total: 108

1 April 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 11 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 11
                                   Total: 109                                           Total: 98
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0   Cases Tested Negative – New: 11
                                       Total: 4                                           Total: 94

31 March 2020

Samples Tested     –       New: 5 Suspected Cases Tested –  New: 3
                                      Total: 98                                           Total: 87
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0   Cases Tested Negative – New: 3
                                       Total: 4                                          Total: 83

30 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 14 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 12
                                     Total: 93                                            Total: 85
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative –  New: 12
                                       Total: 4                                            Total: 80

28 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 23 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 23
                                     Total: 79                                            Total: 72
Cases Tested Positive – New: 1  Cases Tested Negative –  New: 22
                                       Total: 4                                            Total: 68

27 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 5 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 4
                                     Total: 56                                          Total: 49
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative – New: 4
                                       Total: 3                                          Total: 46

26 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 6 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 5
                                     Total: 52                                          Total: 45
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative – New: 5
                                       Total: 3                                          Total: 42

24 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 16 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 16
                                     Total: 45                                           Total: 40
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative – New: 16
                                       Total: 3                                           Total: 37

22 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 3 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 2
                                     Total: 29                                          Total: 24
Cases Tested Positive – New: 1  Cases Tested Negative – New: 1
                                       Total: 3                                          Total: 21

21 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 3 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 3
                                     Total: 26                                           Total: 22
Cases Tested Positive – New: 1  Cases Tested Negative – New: 22
                                       Total: 2                                           Total: 20

20 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 1 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 0
                                     Total: 23                                          Total: 19
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative – New: 0
                                       Total: 1                                          Total: 18

19 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 4 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 4
                                     Total: 22                                          Total: 19
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative – New: 4
                                       Total: 1                                          Total: 18

18 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 1 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 1
                                     Total: 18                                          Total: 15
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative – New: 1
                                       Total: 1                                          Total: 14

17 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 5 Suspected cases tested – New: 5
                                     Total: 17                                          Total: 14
Cases Tested Positive – New: 1  Cases Tested Negative – New: 4
                                       Total: 1                                          Total: 13

15 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 1 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 1
                                     Total: 12                                           Total: 9
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative – New: 1
                                       Total: 0                                           Total: 9

14 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 3 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 3
                                     Total: 11                                           Total: 8
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative – New: 3
                                       Total: 0                                           Total: 8

10 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 2 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 1
                                     Total: 8                                           Total: 5
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative – New: 1
                                       Total: 0                                           Total: 5

9 March 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 1 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 1
                                     Total: 6                                           Total: 4
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative – New: 1
                                       Total: 0                                           Total: 4

27 February 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 1 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 1
                                     Total: 5                                           Total: 3
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative – New: 1
                                       Total: 0                                           Total: 3

17 February 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 2 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 0
                                     Total: 4                                           Total: 2
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative – New: 0
                                       Total: 0                                           Total: 0

15 February 2020

Samples Tested     –     New: 2 Suspected Cases Tested – New: 2
                                     Total: 2                                           Total: 2
Cases Tested Positive – New: 0  Cases Tested Negative – New: 2
                                       Total: 0                                           Total: 2

 

Our Laboratory Management values its relationship with colleagues across the country. Please click this link to access and view the laboratory manual which provides laboratory tests available and their requirements. External clients can refer to the laboratory manual and the laboratory request forms below to complete and forward to laboratory management by sending to labcare@mrc.gm

As part of our preparedness response to COVID-19, our Clinical Services Department has developed and shared the below series of SOPs, flowcharts and guidelines focused on the clinical management of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases. The documents cover critical aspects of patient management and transmission prevention, and may be particularly useful as part of an early-phase COVID-19 response.

Each document is available to download and was designed to serve as a flexible template, which can be easily adapted according to clinical setting and/or regional specifications.

2019 novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19) Executive Summary

Self-Isolation

Flowcharts

SOPs

Checklists

Checklist for Negative Pressure Rooms

25 March 2020

The Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at LSHTM is continuously monitoring the developments on the COVID19 pandemic. We have developed this FAQ to respond to the questions we have been receiving, as well as some key questions that can be helpful, with reference to the World Health Organization guidelines.

This FAQs will be updated as the situation changes, especially in The Gambia. Please check back regularly to get the most up-to-date information.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans.  In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19. 

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

Is there any case of COVID19 in The Gambia?

Yes. The Gambia confirmed its first positive case of COVID-19 on 17th March 2020. To-date, the country has recorded four confirmed cases of COVID-19. The second patient died, marking the first recorded COVID-19 death in the country.

Are contacts of the confirmed COVID19 case being traced?

Yes. We are supporting the Ministry of Health with urgent contact tracing. Those identified as close contacts will be given health advice in line with Ministry of Health guidance. Where testing is required, this will be done.

Is it possible to get the COVID19 testing done in The Gambia?

Yes. The Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine provides the COVID19 testing. The Unit is the only testing centre in the country, and is working closely with The Gambia’s Ministry of Health to test for this process.

How can I get tested for COVID19?

Our facilities are not open to walk-in requests for testing at the moment. COVID19 testing is facilitated by our partners at the Ministry of Health. All persons who may be observing COVID-19 symptoms should contact the Ministry of Health by calling the national helpline 1025 from any network, free of charge. Please follow the guidance you will receive.

Is testing free of charge?

The Unit is not charging any fees for the testing of suspected COVID19 cases.

Is there any testing site other than the MRC?
 

At present, the MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM is the only testing centre in The Gambia. Tests are being conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

Is it safe to attend public events and gatherings?
 

Currently, the Gambia government has not advised against public events and gatherings. However, this may change as the situation evolves. Please refer to current directives from the Gambia Government website However, we advise all higher-risk individuals (including older adults, anyone with underlying health conditions or weakened immune system, and pregnant women) to avoid large gatherings.

How likely am I to catch COVID-19?

The risk depends on where you  are – and more specifically, whether there is a COVID-19 outbreak unfolding there.

For most people in most locations, the risk of catching COVID-19 is still low. However, there are now places around the world (cities or areas) where the disease is spreading. For people living in, or visiting, these areas the risk of catching COVID-19 is higher. Governments and health authorities are taking vigorous action every time a new case of COVID-19 is identified. Be sure to comply with any local restrictions on travel, movement or large gatherings. Cooperating with disease control efforts will reduce your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.

COVID-19 outbreaks can be contained and transmission stopped, as has been shown in China and some other countries. Unfortunately, new outbreaks can emerge rapidly. It’s important to be aware of the situation where you are or intend to go. WHO publishes daily updates on the COVID-19 situation worldwide.

You can see these at https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports/

Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating COVID-19?

No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment of COVID-19. They should only be used as directed by a physician to treat a bacterial infection.

Are there any medicines or therapies that can prevent or cure COVID-19?

While some western, traditional or home remedies may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms of COVID-19, there is no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure the disease. WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure for COVID-19. However, there are several ongoing clinical trials that include both western and traditional medicines. WHO will continue to provide updated information as soon as clinical findings are available.

Is there a vaccine, drug, or treatment for COVID-19?

Not yet. To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019. However, those affected should receive care to relieve symptoms. People with serious illness should be hospitalized. Most patients recover thanks to supportive care.

Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.

The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue, and maintain a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing. (See Basic protective measures against the new coronavirus).

Should I wear a mask to protect myself?

Only wear a mask if you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms (especially coughing) or looking after someone who may have COVID-19. Disposable face mask can only be used once. If you are not ill or looking after someone who is ill then you are wasting a mask. There is a world-wide shortage of masks, so WHO urges people to use masks wisely.

WHO advises rational use of medical masks to avoid unnecessary wastage of precious resources and mis-use of masks  (see Advice on the use of masks).

The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue and maintain a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing. See basic protective measures against the new coronavirus for more information.

How long is the incubation period for COVID-19?

The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. These estimates will be updated as more data become available.

Can humans become infected with the COVID-19 from an animal source?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in animals. Occasionally, people get infected with these viruses which may then spread to other people. For example, SARS-CoV was associated with civet cats and MERS-CoV is transmitted by dromedary camels. Possible animal sources of COVID-19 have not yet been confirmed.

To protect yourself, such as when visiting live animal markets, avoid direct contact with animals and surfaces in contact with animals. Ensure good food safety practices at all times. Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care to avoid contamination of uncooked foods and avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products.

How long does the virus survive on survivors?

It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Is there anything I should not do?

The following measures ARE NOT effective against COVID-2019 and can be harmful:

  • Smoking
  • Wearing multiple masks
  • Taking antibiotics (See question 10 “Are there any medicines of therapies that can prevent or cure COVID-19?“)

In any case, if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early to reduce the risk of developing a more severe infection and be sure to share your recent travel history with your health care provider.

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