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Updated Information about COVID-19 for Healthcare Professionals

HealthStream has recently posted an updated July 2020 version of our article, “2019 Novel Coronavirus Pandemic: What Healthcare Professionals Need to Know,” by Joanne Tate, BSN, RN; Accreditation and OSHA Standards Courseware Author, HealthStream. Here’s an abbreviated sample of the article’s contents:

How Many People Are Affected?

Statistics included in the article demonstrate just how serious this ongoing pandemic has become in the United States. As of July 12, 2020, there were:

  • U.S. confirmed cases - 3,236,130
  • U.S. deaths - 134,572
  • GLOBAL cases - 12,552,765
  • Global deaths - 561,617

Signs and Symptoms

COVID-19 causes respiratory illness with symptoms of fever or chills, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms range from mild, as with the common cold, to deadly. Other symptoms include fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new losses of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. The incubation period is thought to extend to 14 days with most developing symptoms within 11.5 days. Signs and symptoms are similar in children, but they are usually milder.

Treatment

It remains true that there is no effective vaccine or antiviral agent for this infection, and treatment is supportive to manage symptoms. In the months since COVID-19 became a serious problem, the healthcare industry has learned much about treating the virus and its symptoms as public and private organizations work around the clock to develop a vaccine. The article links to clinical management guidelines from the American Society of Hematology, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), The Society of Critical Care Medicine, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the American Thoracic Society.

Exposure Risks for COVID-19

The article discusses situations where you might be at risk for contracting the disease due to how you work or where you live. It also lists individuals who are more at risk due to age or underlying health conditions.

Testing for COVID-19

Clinicians are encouraged to use their judgment to determine if a patient has signs or symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested. Clinicians should consider testing for other causes of respiratory illness, such as influenza, in addition to testing for SARS-CoV-2. It is essential to recognize that detection of one respiratory pathogen (e.g., influenza) does not exclude the potential for co-infection.

Avoiding COVID-19 Infection for the General Population

Although most states have re-opened by easing up on stay-at-home orders, certain CDC guidelines are advised and may become mandatory, including:

  • Social distancing of 6 feet or more
  • Wearing face masks in public settings, especially when social distancing is difficult to maintain
  • Frequent hand hygiene and avoidance of touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands

Infection Control and Prevention for Healthcare Workers

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 those paid and unpaid, 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.

The transmission risk is more likely when symptoms are present because shedding is more common during that time with most viruses. What we do know now is that the virus spreads easily from person to person, in fact, more efficiently than influenza but not as efficiently as the measles. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. This is why the CDC has strongly advised social distancing. Those who go out in public should wear a cloth mask to protect others.

It is important to be mindful of the fact that when droplets of various sizes enter the air through coughing or sneezing, they can land in the mouths and noses of people nearby (within 6 feet) and can then be inhaled. They can also land on surfaces and it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 from touching a contaminated surface, then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. Thus, hand hygiene is extremely important. This is also why recommendations for PPE include the use of N95 respirators, gloves, eye shields and gowns.

The article lists multiple strategies for containing the virus. Here are just a few of them:

  • Screening of all people who enter a healthcare facility
  • Practice cough etiquette and hand hygiene
  • Use standard precautions, assuming that every patient is potentially infected or colonized with a potentially transmissible pathogen.
  • Use respiratory protection (i.e., a respirator) that is at least as protective as a fit-tested NIOSH-certified disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirator before performing any aerosol-generating procedures.
  • Use contact precautions, especially to protect eyes.

This blog post is just a brief overview of our updated article. Download the full article with COVID-19 information for practicing healthcare professionals.

To support caregivers and healthcare organizations as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, HealthStream is offering a collection of carefully curated courses to all customers for free. Likewise, Using HealthStream’s Channels platform for video learning, we have a created a free-access COVID19 Channel in response to the COVID19 pandemic, specifically to support healthcare workers and their families. It contains a collection of curated videos provided by HealthStream and HealthStream’s content partners from several trusted sources on YouTube, such as the CDC and Mayo Clinic.

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