Talking Infection Control Over A Corona

Coronavirus ncovid-19

Until recently, the word corona evoked an image of a clear, glistening longneck bottle of pale lager that pairs nicely with a summer afternoon down by the seaside. Add a wedge of green citrus fruit and another Corona gets its lime and your latitude has changed.

But now comes another type of corona in the form of a virus known as COVID-19 that gets its host through respiratory disease. COVID-19 is a coronavirus and cousin to the SARS virus (severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus) that caused an outbreak between 2002-2004 and the MERS virus (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) with outbreaks in 2012, 2015, and 2018. COVID-19 disease can range from mild to critical as well as deadly, particularly in patients with pre-existing cardiopulmonary conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates an incubation period of 2-14 days for the virus with symptoms similar to influenza such as fever, cough, and difficulty breathing that can lead to pneumonia and multi-organ failure. Presently, there are no approved vaccines or antiviral drugs to treat coronavirus infection, though projects are currently underway for clinical trials on humans.

Even with the increasing media attention on COVID-19, influenza remains a clear and present danger with the CDC estimating at least 29 million flu illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations, and 16,000 deaths from flu this season in the United States. Certainly, Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” rings true in taking precautions to prevent infection from these respiratory droplet transmitted viruses. In the case of influenza, the CDC recommends the following.

  1. First and foremost, get an annual flu shot. Though the vaccine may not be a precise match to the circulating viral strain, it will still help to minimize symptoms.
  2. Practice good cough and sneeze etiquette by covering your mouth and nose using a tissue or upper shirt sleeve.
  3. Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Wash, rinse, and repeat as needed throughout the day.
  4. Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, and mouth as mucous membranes are a site of viral entry.
  5. Regularly clean and disinfect touch surfaces (fomites) including cell phones, touch pads, tablets, doorknobs, and light switches. Remember, the foe might get you if you don’t get to the fomite.
  6. Limit contact with others when having flu-like symptoms and avoid close contact with sick people.
  7. If you’re sick with the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone unless you need medical care.
  8. If you are an employer- encourage your employees to stay home if they are ill.

The precautionary measures are similar for COVID-19 (with the exception of getting a flu shot) along with limiting movement and activity for someone who’s been in China or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days. For more information on infection control check out the CDC’s infection control site with plenty of resources available on standard precautions and transmission-based precautions, especially in healthcare settings.

Things to know about the COVID-19:

  • Read your disinfectant directions in order to clean workspaces appropriately.
  • Coronaviruses may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days.
  • Only use a medical mask if you are sick to restrict the spreading of droplets.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has an updated webpage covering the latest information on COVID-19.
  • Check all warnings and advisories on travel before you leave home.
  • There is an active infection map by Johns Hopkins CSSE should you want to track the progression of the disease.

Employees will continue to worry until we get a better handle on the spreading of the COVID-19.  The more factual information you can give them from the CDC the better. Remind your employees not to live in fear, just remember to wash your hands frequently.  Hand hygiene goes a long way in keeping germs at bay. For more healthcare related information, check out these MEMIC Safety Net blogs.

Posted by Alexis Flink and Greg LaRochelle (Retired 2023)