Guideline on cleaning the cloth masks​

  1. Remember cloth face masks are not a substitute for social distance. Cloth masks should be used in conjunction with keeping the 1 to 2 metres distance apart and hand hygiene.
  2. Remember to clean your hands before and after washing the cloth mask.
  3. It is recommended that you wash the face mask daily – at the end of the day, immediately upon reaching home. 
  4. The cloth mask should be washed with soap/ detergent and hot water (of about 60 degrees Celsius). 
  5. Thereafter, dry it in the sun wherever possible. 
  6. Cloth masks will progressively deteriorate with each wash just like any cloth. Hold the mask against the light, if you notice areas of thinning, it is time to change the face mask.

The spread of the COVID 19 pandemic has disrupted our normal daily activities including the delivery of healthcare services. However, our healthcare needs have not changed. Pregnant women still require their ante-natal care, children need to be on schedule for their vaccinations, emergencies need to be attended to, people living with chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, cancer and others still require access to physicians, for continuity of care.

While one appreciates that the delivery of care may be disrupted by the movement restrictions and the need for social distancing, it is important that we in the healthcare sector ensure continuity of services so that all patients receive the care they need, promptly. If we fail to do so we risk an even bigger healthcare crisis in the near future.

With the fear of going into hospitals now rife amongst us, Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi has heeded the government’s call to ensure continuity of care for all, by enhancing safety measures for patients and staff and communicating these to the public.

Safety in hospitals

As a standard, safety at the hospital is a top priority for any healthcare provider. Now with the reality of COVID-19, we are even more vigilant. We have, for example, formed a disinfection team consisting of members who are specially trained by Infectious Disease experts to clean and disinfect the Hospital and Outreach clinics 24 hours 7 days a week, for the safety of all persons utilizing our services. In line with the government’s directive, everyone visiting our facilities (the Hospital and clinics) is screened on entry and their temperature is measured. All persons must wear a mask and sanitize their hands before entry into the facility. We are also enforcing social distancing rules and have arranged for additional waiting areas for patients.

Safety of healthcare workers

One of the biggest challenges for countries who were hit by the pandemic earlier than us was the high infection rates amongst healthcare workers. This is thought to have accelerated community infections in some of the countries. The safety of healthcare workers has, therefore, been a top priority for us. We prioritized training for all our staff on COVID-19 even before the first case was reported in Kenya. Besides ensuring that we have appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our caregivers. We spent a substantial amount of financial resources to ensure that we have 6 months’ worth of PPE supplies for our care providers and staff. We have also issued all our staff with masks, digital thermometers and individualized hand sanitizers to ensure their safety at all times.

Free COVID-19 testing

To enhance the safety of patients and caregivers, we have introduced free COVID-19 testing for all our in-patients, surgical and day surgery patients as part of our safety measures to provide a safe environment for all patients and staff. This will also enable us to determine the best approach to care for our patients including the appropriate use of PPEs during their stay in the Hospital. We continue caring for all patients and have made arrangements for separate facilities and isolation wards for patients who might need them. Strict safety protocols are observed.


We understand that some patients such as the elderly might not be able to come to hospital even when they need care. Therefore, we have introduced Telemedicine services especially for patients who might benefit from this initiative and just need a follow-up. Through this, patients continue receiving the quality care they need from their trusted doctor, via phone or zoom. The service is augmented by mobile laboratory and pharmacy delivery services, both of which are offered free of charge to ensure you continue to receive care, as your health matters to us.

The World Health Organiza​tion has indicated that coronavirus may be with us for a while. We must, therefore, find a way to adapt to the new normal and continue with our lives. Thus, delivery of healthcare in a safe environment is our priority.

If you suspect you have Covid-19 or have symptoms and needs medical care, call our hotline to make sure you get into the hospital in a safe manner. Our COVID-19 hotline is +254 (0) 709 931 700 and is available anytime of the day and night.

Safety measures at the Hospital

Staff, patients and visitors’ safety in our work environment remains our highest priority. We want you to be informed and feel that your safety is of fundamental importance.  We have an obligation to you, to continually focus on and improve processes to support your safety and thereby provide best practice care.

From the point of first contact, through the course of treatment, to discharge, patients are cared for with a set of protocols and precautions intended to maximize their safety, in line with Joint Commission International guidelines.

To ensure the safety of all patients and the caregivers, we have taken the following measures:

  • All patients, staff and visitors are screened at entry to the hospital and their temperature is taken.
  • Hand sanitizer is provided for their mandatory use before entrance into the facility.
  • We are conducting free Covid-19 testing for all our In-patients, Surgical and Day Surgery patients as part of the safety measures to provide a safe environment for all patients and staff. This will enable us determine the best approach to care for our patients including the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during their stay in the Hospital hence enhance the safety of patients and caregivers. 
  • All our staff are trained on appropriate infection control measures.
  • Patients coming to hospital are required to limit those accompanying them to one person.
  • Our visiting hours limited to only the registered next of kin, for 30 minutes only. Should
  • All patients and attendants coming to our facilities should wear masks for their own protection, as well as observe social distancing.
  • The hospital has set aside designated areas where suspected or infected COVID-19 patients are cared.
  • Similarly, dedicated staff, are assigned duties to provide care to either COVID-19 or Non COVID patients separately, and are never mixed up.
  • All staff at the front-line are provided with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

​By Prof Rodney Adam, Infectious Disease Specialist and the Chair of Infection Control Taskforce at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi

The name and origin of the virus

The name of the virus has rapidly evolved since the first cases in early December 2019 and the recognition that it was a new virus in late December. Viruses have been traditionally named after their location of discovery, so the initial designation was Wuhan coronavirus. However, no one wants it named after their place, so the agreed naming of the disease is COVID-19 (COronavirus VIrus Disease-2019) and the virus is coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The sequence of the virus was released in January and made it clear that this virus is from a bat and related to SARS and MERS, but more closely to SARS; thus, SARS is part of the name. The other bat coronaviruses came to humans via another mammal (civet for SARS and camel for MERS) and that is also suspected for the new virus. The sequence also means that the conspiracy hypothesis about this being a lab-adapted virus are false.

About the COVID-19 Illness

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The two main symptoms of COVID-19 are fever and cough. The initial case definition also included shortness of breath, but that is true only for those who are more seriously ill. One of the more recently identified symptoms is loss of smell and/or taste. This may occur in up to half of symptomatic patients and when present, it is highly suggestive of COVID-19. Other common symptoms include fatigue, muscle pain and sore throat. Symptoms like runny nose or diarrhea are sometimes found, but may be found more often in other types of infections. Seek medical attention if you have these symptoms or have been in contact with someone who was diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19.  

How does SARS CoV-2 (COVID-19) spread?

SARS CoV-2 spreads through droplets which are released when people sneeze or cough. These droplets may be large and only travel up to one meter or may be small, allowing them to travel several meters and cause infection when they contact the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose or eyes. The ventilation makes a big difference, so transmission is reduced substantially when you are outside or inside with windows open and good air flow. The infection may also spread from contaminated surfaces.

How long is the incubation period for COVID-19?

Incubation period is the time between catching the virus and when the symptoms of the disease start appearing. The average is about five days and ranges from two to 12 days in most cases.

What temperature is normal? 

For most people, their temperature ranges between 36 to 37 degrees depending on the time of day and rarely someone's normal temperature may be up to 37.2 or 37.4 degrees. With COVID-19 infection, high temperatures, greater than 39 degrees are common but even temperatures of 37.8 degrees can be significant.

How do I know that I have shortness of breath?

First, shortness of breath does not mean that it's difficult to breathe because of a stuffy nose. It means that when you are breathing normally through your mouth, the activities that didn't bother you now make you feel like you don't have sufficient breath. For example, could you previously walk up a flight of steps and now you are short of breath after only a few steps?

How do I know if I have COVID-19 and not regular cold or flu?

The only way to know if you suffer from COVID-19 is through a special lab test called PCR. The PCR test is currently available through the Ministry of Health and at a number of other facilities, including AKUHN.

If I have symptoms should I walk into hospital or call first?

If you are sick enough that you might need to be hospitalized, you should come to the Accident and Emergency Department.

I've seen somewhere that 4 out of 5 spread COVID-19 when they don't have symptoms. Is this factual?

It is now clear that much transmission occurs from people who have no symptoms but it may be more common for transmission to occur from people with very mild symptoms. People are infectious beginning about 1 to 3 days before symptoms develop so transmission occurs commonly in this time period. There are others who transmit but never develop symptoms.

COVID-19 Testing

Who should be tested for coronavirus?​

The highest priority people for testing include patients with severe symptoms that may be severe COVID-19, especially for older people or those with heart, kidney and lung disease. The major symptoms include fever and deep cough. Other people include those with exposure to COVID-19 and health care workers.

There is a role for testing asymptomatic people, especially if there is recent contact with a known case within the last few days, especially in households with someone who is infected since the likelihood of transmission in households is very common.

I have a cough, should I be tested?

You should call and obtain medical advice. It will depend on your likelihood of being infected yourself or of transmitting to someone else.

Quarantine and Isolation

What is physical/Social distancing?

The concept of social distancing has come from observations that in preceding outbreaks, such as the 1918 influenza pandemic. Cities that limited large gatherings had fewer cases. Now there is substantial evidence during the COVID-19 pandemic that physical distancing is very helpful. It is because the virus is spread primarily by respiratory droplets that are produced when coughing. These droplets quickly drop to the ground.  A distance of 1.5 or 2 meters is recommended.

Which activities should physical distancing apply to?

This typically refers to public settings, especially in closed spaces. The risk should be minimal when outside and walking. Within households, physical distancing is appropriate when one person is infected and trying to prevent transmission within the household. That is notably hard to do but should still be done when there are elderly people or those with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and kidney disease.

How far should I be from someone?

It is recommended that you are 1 to 2 meters apart.

What is self-quarantine? 

Normally that means separating yourself from others when you are having no symptoms, but have been exposed and are at risk. That is commonly done after high risk exposures and is typically for 14.

What practical steps should I take when on self-quarantine at home?

It is boring and you may get tired of television, so start a new book you have been waiting to read. Otherwise, watch for symptoms and if mild, continue away from others until at least 10 days after developing symptoms and 3 days after recovery. If possible, have a test done when you develop symptoms, especially if you are doing medical work. If you are more severely ill, come to the hospital but let the people in Accident and Emergency. Also wear a mask.

What is isolation?

Isolation refers to separating yourself from others when you have symptoms that may be due to COVID-19. This may be done at home when the symptoms are mild or at a health facility when the symptoms are severe.

Personal prevention and treatment

How can I reduce the risk of getting coronavirus from infected humans?

There is growing evidence on the importance of transmission through the air by respiratory droplets. These can be large droplets that drop quickly to the floor or may be smaller ones that spread farther. For this reason, there is growing evidence on the importance of the use of masks. Even cloth masks worn by both people who are in contact with each other are highly effective. The greater benefit is when the infected person is wearing the mask. In medical settings, the caregiver should wear an N95 mask if available and if not should use a surgical mask.

There has been much discussion about the potential role of transmission from a contaminated environment, but that is much less likely and has not yet been clearly documented. We do assume that directly touching the infected person or something that person coughed on is a risk factor. That means that the most important thing you can do is proper hand hygiene, either washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you have contact with someone who might have a respiratory illness.

Will a normal flu shot help me avoid the worst symptoms?

The flu shot is for preventing infection from influenza and will not prevent coronavirus infection. However, the illness caused by influenza is similar to the coronavirus infection, so if influenza is prevented, there is less chance of suspecting that you have the coronavirus when in fact, it is influenza. There is discussion about whether influenza vaccine prevents COVID-19, but that is not proven.

If I catch the virus what is the standard treatment?

Most of the important medications currently available work by inhibiting a portion of the immune response to the virus, such as dexamethasone or tocilizumab. Remdesivir is an antiviral drug that also has benefit. Remember that good supportive care is very important and nearly everyone can survive. That includes oxygen when needed and even a ventilator for those who are really sick.

I have a bad cough and would normally not see a doctor for it—but with this going on, should I go?

You should only be alarmed if you exhibit the two main symptoms of cough and fever and have been in contact with someone suspected to have COVID-19.

Given that the virus originated from animals should I stay away from meat and animal products? Should I worry how I handle animals?

The 2019-nCoV coronavirus is originally a bat virus but was likely initially transmitted to humans via another mammal. However, transmission now is human to human, so animal contact will not make any difference for this virus. However, do note that there are other infections that can be acquired from animals. For example, there is anthrax from dead cattle who are then butchered. There is brucellosis from goats, sheep and other animals, and Salmonella from chickens and eggs. And don't forget that if dogs haven't been immunized, they can transmit rabies when they bite. That means we must be careful with animals, but it will not be a factor to getting the coronavirus.

General Questions

Can COVID-19 be treated with antibiotics?

No. COVID-19 is caused by a virus and antibiotics only work on bacterial infections.

How serious is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is usually a mild to moderate respiratory (lung) infection. In the elderly or those who are immunocompromised or have other chronic diseases, it may lead to a severe pneumonia and can be fatal. Children and young adults rarely develop serious disease.

What is the risk for health care workers?

There is definitely a risk but the magnitude of the risk is lower than initially thought. In China, the majority of HCW cases were actually acquired within their own households. However, when proper personal protective equipment is used, the risk is low.

What is Aga Khan University hospital doing for people who might have COVID-19?

If patients come with a potentially contagious illness they will be screened on entry to the facility and when necessary, appropriate precautions will be used.

What level of care will COVID-19 patients receive?

Patients with COVID-19 will receive the level of care that is required for their illness, including intensive care treatment and advanced medical treatment when needed, such as a breathing mechanical ventilation or kidney dialysis.

Where should a patient with suspected COVID-19 go?

All patients who have suspected Coronavirus symptoms and or have a travel history should call our hotline on +254 709 931700 before coming to hospital for guidance.

Do you have the following concerns and require to have a COVID-19 test done?​

  1. Travelling outside the country?
  2. Resuming work?
  3. Have COVID-19 like symptoms?
  4. Suspect to have come into contact with a COVID-19 infected person?
​We are offering COVID-19 testing for individuals and organizations. For more details please contact;

Maureen Oyuga:
Johna Muchiri:
Telephone: +254 (0) 711092411

​For more information on COVID-19-Hotline, please visit: ​​​​