What Healthcare Professionals Need to Know About the Coronavirus COVID-19 (Part 2)

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

From December 31, 2019 through January 3, 2020, a total of 44 case-patients with pneumonia of unknown etiology were reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by national authorities in China. The Chinese quickly isolated a new coronavirus on January 7, 2020, and by January 20, 2020, there were 282 confirmed infected cases. The new virus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and continues to spread throughout the mainland there. Just a little over a month later, this novel coronavirus, named COVID-19, has now infected over 42,000 people in China, causing 1,107 deaths there, and has spread globally to 25 other countries. One person has now died in the Philippines. This coronavirus is a public health emergency of international concern.

Identify, Isolate, and Inform

Those that have become infected outside of China either traveled to China or have been in close contact with someone who has the virus. Healthcare providers must obtain a detailed travel history for patients being evaluated who have fever and acute respiratory illness. People with fever AND symptoms of lower respiratory illness (cough or shortness of breath) should be isolated if, within the past 14 days, they have traveled to China or have been in close contact with a confirmed infection. Isolation precautions include:

  • Placing a facemask on the patient
  • Placing them in a private room or separate area
  • Wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)

At risk patients should be immediately reported to both infection control personnel and the local health department to determine the need to obtain specimens to collect for COVID-19. Local health departments will provide the necessary guidance for healthcare providers. Depending on the severity of the illness, some patients may be advised to stay home and return for re-evaluation (wearing a mask) if symptoms worsen (CDC, 2020). Recommendations for reporting, testing, and specimen collection can be found on the CDC Novel Coronavirus Web Page.

Furthermore, if a person has a fever OR signs and symptoms of lower respiratory symptoms AND they have had close contact with a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19 within 14 days of symptom onset, they are at risk for infection and transmission, and should be evaluated as a PUI. This includes healthcare workers (CDC, 2020). Take note that “fever may not be present in some patients, such as those who are very young, elderly, immunosuppressed, or taking certain medications. Clinical judgement should be used to guide testing of patients in such situations” (CDC, 2020).

The United States is doing everything possible to halt the spread of this virus and declared this a public health emergency on January 30, 2020. U.S. citizens in China have been transported back to the states and will remain quarantined for 14 days at military bases.

Infection Control and Prevention Considerations

Infection control and prevention means using evidenced-based practices to prevent and contain infections. They include administrative policies and procedures, environmental hygiene, work practices, and appropriate use of PPE. All healthcare workers, including volunteers, who work in a healthcare setting and who encounter patients during admission, assessment, care, housekeeping, specimen collection, and triage, for instance, must implement infection control precautions. Identification and isolation are essential in preventing unnecessary exposure among patients, healthcare workers, and visitors. Detailed recommendations can be found on the CDC website, Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients with Confirmed 2019 Novel Coronavirus .

This blog post is an excerpt from a HealthStream white paper, What Healthcare Professionals Need to Know About the Coronavirus, about the global healthcare threat posed by the coronavirus COVID-19. It includes references that will provide you with detailed information that you need should you suspect COVID-19 or must manage confirmed cases. HealthStream put together this basic high-level information as an initial primer for healthcare professionals who want to know more about the coronavirus threat. As with any emerging infection, make sure that you become familiar with the resources available on the CDC website. The CDC updates information there as they learn it, so checking in daily and setting up an email notification for updates is strongly recommended.

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PLEASE NOTE: The information in this blog post was considered current at the time of its publishing, 02/18/20. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-evolving disaster due to new findings, data, and availability of resources. Please refer to the CDC website for the latest detailed information when you need it.