First, a little background:
COVID-19, previously referred to in the media as Coronavirus, was first reported in Wuhan, China last December. The current outbreak seems to have been caused by to animal-to-human transmission in a crowded outdoor livestock market where wild animals were also being bought and sold.
The disease has spread rapidly to many areas of the globe, including such widespread areas as Italy, Iran, and Sweden. Because of this, characterizing COVID-19 as a “Chinese disease” or being concerned about Chinese people or businesses is not valid. As of this article’s publication date, there have been a handful of cases in the United States.
Why are world health organizations so concerned?
While most coronaviruses cause a mild to moderate illness similar to the common cold, this particular virus is particularly serious because it can progress to pneumonia and death, especially in adult males. So far, the fatality rate has been about 3% in reliably identified cases of COVID-19 infection.
Person-to-person transmission via airborne particles from coughing and sneezing and contamination on hard surfaces—where the virus can survive for up to five to nine days—are the currently identified modes of infection. Epidemiologists describe it as about as contagious as the common cold and flu, and less contagious than the measles.
As it rapidly spreads around the world, attempts to contain it have not been very effective. World health organizations are now becoming increasingly resigned to COVID-19 becoming a worldwide disease that must be managed, instead of eradicated.
While scientists are working on a vaccine and are confident that they can achieve their goal, they estimate they are halfway through a process that will take about 16 weeks. Then time will be needed to manufacture, distribute, and administer the vaccine in meaningful numbers.
In the meantime, practical preventative measures can be very effective.
What do frontline healthcare workers need to know?
It’s important to recognize that influenza is currently far more prevalent and dangerous. There were nearly 4.400 cases of the flu in the Greater New York City area last week alone. The fatality rate varies for the flu, but last year it was 1% — or over 4,300 cases and 38 deaths in NYC alone.
Like chickenpox, the common cold, and the flu, COVID-19 is transmissible before symptoms appear. So it’s important to strictly follow all standard preventative measures to protect yourself and your care clients:
Bottom Line: Protect your clients. Practice your regular sanitary and contagion protocols, and don’t panic!