According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of February 24th, the latest coronavirus outbreak has approximately 80,000 confirmed cases of infection globally, with 35 confirmed cases in the United States. Officially called COVID-19, the widespread nature of the outbreak puts communities and healthcare professionals at a higher risk of contact and infection than otherwise assumed. Here’s what you need to know about the virus and the disease it causes, and what can be done to protect healthcare professionals who may be treating infected patients in the near future:
What is COVID-19, and where did it come from?
COVID-19 is the name given to the disease caused by the 2019-nCoV virus. Like SARS, COVID-19 is the result of a coronavirus. These are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans. While animal to human transmission is a possibility, the animal source of COVID-19 hasn’t been officially determined, according to WHO. What we do know is that the first cases of human infection were reported from a live animal market in China.
Signs and symptoms to look out for
Clinical criteria for diagnosis are under review, and preliminary guidelines have been developed based on what’s known about the MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. Signs and symptoms are very similar to those of the common cold making it difficult to differentiate; therefore, diagnosis can only be confirmed through laboratory testing.
According to the CDC, clinicians are required to obtain a travel history from anyone presenting with a febrile illness. Take note if a patient presents with a fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness, has travelled to an affected area in the 14 days before symptom onset, or has been in contact with a person under investigation for 2019-nCoV infection.
What can you do to protect yourself?
WHO has outlined a series of basic protective measures for the public. Their recommendations include:
- - Practicing hand hygiene
- - Practicing respiratory hygiene
- - Maintaining social distancing
- - Avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth
- - Seeking medical attention early for fevers, coughs, and difficulty breathing
Healthcare workers are under different demands. They’re not always able to maintain a distance from someone with a suspected infection, for instance. That’s what makes personal protective equipment (PPE) key to reducing the risk of infection. The CDC issued recommended infection control procedures that include:
- - Minimize chance for exposure to respiratory pathogens. This can include wearing a face mask themselves, or instructing a patient with suspected infection to do the same.
- - Adherence to standard, contact, and airborne precautions. This can include the use of eye protection.
- - Using appropriate PPE. This includes gloves, gowns, and respiratory, and eye protection. Gloves, for instance, are such a simple form of PPE, but when correctly used in combination with hand hygiene they may dramatically reduce the risk of infection.
The WHO and CDC are excellent resources for monitoring the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak. Stay up to date on their latest findings here:
Partner with suppliers of trusted personal protective equipment
When tasked with infection prevention, you will want to supply your team with only the best in PPE, including masks, gowns and gloves. Hand hygiene practices are always extremely important when it comes to reducing infectious incidents. The combination of thorough hand washing and use of single use gloves is paramount.
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