Early January 2020, when Wuhan, Hubei province China had a pneumonia outbreak, they identified the Novel Coronavirus. As of date, there are about 4,673 confirmed cases and 106 deaths. The virus was actually discovered on December 8, 2019 and between then and now, it has taken 106 deaths in a month and three weeks.
It is but inevitable that we as front liners will experience this at least once in our medical career. We encounter all kinds of diseases every single day, but we can never be too ready for this. In the year 2002 to 2003 when the world was hit with SARS, there are about 800 casualties and sadly, 3 of which are medical professionals, one was a medical doctor and the others are nurses. Nelia Laroza, RN was the first nurse to suffer inevitability. She was working in North York General Hospital. The sad part was this was when everybody thought they have already beaten SARS, she died on June 29,2003 ate 52 years old. Her death brought shock to the nursing and medical communities.
How do we prepare for the coronavirus? Do we understand what it is all about? How virulent is the Novel Coronavirus?
Understanding the Culprit
One thing we all should know is that it is HIGHLY contagious. There is an incubation period, and it was just recently discovered. The incubation period is between two to 14 days and it remains contagious during this time. Patients may feel a common cold like fever, productive coughs and sudden difficulty of breathing which can be fatal. Across Asia, there have been confirmed cases, that would also include Oceania, Europe, and North America. The first death was recorded on January 9, 2020.
The virus can be transmitted easily through air by simply coughing or sneezing. Close personal contact can easily transfer the virus, such as touching or shaking hands. The virus also stays on surfaces, when touched and transferred to the nose eyes or mouth a person can easily acquire the virus. Human to human, or animal to human vis a vis.
An epidemiologist with a solid 15-year experience actually published an alarming analysis of the Ncov. Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, a Harvard trained epidemiologist quoted it as ‘thermonuclear pandemic level bad’. This is because of its comparative virulence with SARS or MERS CoV. The doctor discovered its virality coefficient or RO(reproductive Value) at 3.8 as compared to SARS at only 0.49. technically the virus spreads almost 8 times faster than SARS. Twitter account: @DrEricDing . See this link for reference: Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV:early estimation of epidemiological parameters and epidemic predictions and Estimates of the reproduction number for seasonal, pandemic, and zoonotic influenza: a systematic review of the literature.
Worst Case scenario
So, what if one day, you wake up with a case like this in your hospital? One thing for sure, knowing what the disease is all about, it’s capacity and virulence, CONGRATULATIONS! You are a step ahead of the game. NEVER panic, you can handle this. Consider it just like any other infectious disease, by first protecting yourself before serving others. You can never function as a medical professional if you don’t protect yourself first. The universal rule of the UNIVERSAL PRECAUTION which is typically basic. The 5 moments of handwashing and the utilization of PPE’s (Personal Protective Equipment) after all, you are your greatest weapon.
Prepare your Body and your Family
It is but cliché, that you should be ready physiologically. You can never go to war without the right weapon, and your weapon is your knowledge of the disease and your healthy body. Drink plenty of water, never let your throat dry out. Eat healthy, chug up those greens and yellows. If you think you need supplementation, do so. Always get plenty of rest and be on alert. Teach this to your family as well, you should not be the one worrying about them while taking care of others, this could be an added stress. Your family is lucky they have you, they get first-hand information from a medical professional, protect them as well by making sure they know the STANDARD PRECAUTION.
The STANDARD PRECAUTION
The standard precaution is used by all medical professionals. It is a minimum infection prevention practice that is applied to all patient care regardless of history.
- PROPER HANDWASHING. At least 2 minutes with running water and soap, before handling patients, touching surroundings and afterwards as well.
- PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT. Proper use of gloves, masks, and eyewear. Masks are used colored side out and no other way.
- DROPLET HYGIENE/COUGH/RESPIRATORY HYGIENE.
- SURFACE DISINFECTION
- SHARPS SAFETY
- SAFE INJECTION PRACTICE
The HAND HYGIENE
The single most EFFECTIVE way of preventing the transfer of diseases. Developing this habit is actually a lifesaver, so start developing it right now. Hand hygiene or handwashing should be at least 2 minutes before and after contact with anything. If there is no immediate water source, the use of alcohol is also recommended but it does not overlap hand washing. Always keep alcohol in your pocket and bag. Alcohol is a dehydrator of virus and bacteria, it becomes effective once your hands dry out.
Cough etiquette limits the transmission of diseases especially respiratory pathogens. People should be covering their mouths and noses when they cough or sneeze. Practice the use of disposable tissues and of course hand hygiene after coughing and before touching anything. Use disposable masks, and provide ones to patients and watchers as well.
If you are a medical professional, you might already know half of what I wrote in this article, but we can never be too confident. Reading and sharing correct information may mean saving lives in the long run. My grandfather once told me,
“Palaging talo ng Handa ang Matalino” – readiness will always beat the smart.