Healthcare News & Insights

Coronavirus: How your hospital can help contain its spread in the U.S.

The new strain of coronavirus — known as COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV — remains a top news story. 

More than 1,360 people in China have died from the respiratory illness. There are confirmed cases in 28 different countries, prompting the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency.

Closer to home at least 15, and possibly more, Americans have it.

Although the flu is a greater threat in the U.S. than coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that doctors and hospitals take a more cautious approach with patients complaining of fever, cough and flu-like symptoms.

There isn’t a standard treatment for coronavirus yet. So how would your staff handle it if someone comes to your hospital with symptoms? Here’s what other facilities are doing.

Triaging & quarantining the patient

Establish right away if patients experiencing symptoms have recently traveled to China, the source of the coronavirus outbreak.

Like the flu, the virus can travel through the air in a cough or sneeze. Patients admitted and being evaluated for coronavirus should wear a face mask and be tested via a nasal swab.

If this happens, the CDC encourages notifying local and/or state health departments.

According to a report in The Los Angeles Times, hundreds of Americans have been tested, with results coming back negative. The results for 60 tests are still pending.

Until test results are confirmed, isolate the patient in a negative pressure room, like the kind used to quarantine tuberculosis or measles patients. It keeps contaminated air from seeping into the rest of the hospital.

Patient contact with family should be restricted to phone and video chat – no visitors allowed.

Until a treatment is developed, all that can be done is to alleviate symptoms. The patient may need IV fluids and lung function monitoring.

Keeping staff safe

It’s a good idea to consider holding a refresher class for staff on infectious disease control.

Only doctors and nurses should make contact with patients being evaluated for coronavirus. They need to wear a gown, gloves, goggles and a face mask, and to monitor their temperature.

A risk evaluation should be made for any staff members who didn’t wear protection and were exposed to a patient confirmed to have the virus.

Keeping other patients calm

Assure anyone expressing concern that staff is following hygiene protocol and doing everything possible to prevent the spread of the virus.

Also remind them that coronavirus is uncommon and they’re more at risk of getting the flu.

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