ASSESSING THE WUHAN NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost all confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have a travel history to Wuhan City in China or had direct contact with an individual who had traveled there. The WHO’s Jan. 27 Situation Report provides a risk assessment:
- Very high in China.
- High at the regional level.
- High at the global level.
Human coronaviruses are most frequently associated with an upper respiratory tract infection characterized by rhinorrhea, nasal congestion, sore throat, sneezing and cough that may be associated with a mild fever.
HOW DOES THE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS SPREAD?
Coronavirus is a family of viruses that includes the common cold and viruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), genetic sequencing information does not provide any information about the severity of associated illnesses or the transmissibility of the virus. However, there is evidence that person-to-person spread of the virus is occurring. In fact, a case of the virus spreading from human-to-human was reported in Illinois.
The CDC’s “Interim Guidelines for Collecting, Handling, and Testing Clinical Specimens from Patients Under Investigation (PUIs) for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)” says that at this time, diagnostic testing for Wuhan coronavirus can be conducted only at the CDC.
The CDC website provides guidance on the prevention and treatment for human coronavirus, which applies to the Wuhan novel coronavirus strain. The CDC advises people to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds rather than using hand sanitizers. Other protocols for prevention include avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HANDLING THE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center changed its electronic prompts so any patients entering the hospital, emergency department or clinics presenting with a fever or respiratory symptoms will be asked if they’ve been to China recently or had contact with anyone who has, according to a Modern Healthcare article. Patients at risk of having the virus will be placed in isolation.
If a healthcare provider suspects a patient has the virus, the CDC advises notifying state public health laboratories for further instructions. Reference laboratories have notified customers to not send patients suspected of the virus for specimen collection until laboratory testing is completed by the CDC and 2019-nCoV has been ruled out.
Providers are advised to assess pandemic safety stocks, including possible low inventories of gowns affected by the recent recall of Cardinal AAMI Level 3 Surgical Gowns. The recall may have caused facilities to consume pandemic stocks to meet urgent needs over recent weeks.