Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that almost 2,000 frontline healthcare workers in China treating patients in the outbreak of COVID-19 have become ill with the virus. While no workers in the U.S. have gotten sick so far, the situation highlights the need for health professionals of all kinds to protect themselves.
“Breakdown in infection control in healthcare settings is actually something that infection control practitioners work at every single day because these risks do exist,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, told reporters last Friday. “Healthcare workers have to maintain a high level of precision every day … there’s a lot that we don’t know so we need to air on the side of caution.”
Here are some of the CDC’s most important infection prevention guidelines that you can act on right away.
Prepare when scheduling appointments. Ask patients if they have symptoms of the novel coronavirus and/or a recent history of travel to China. Tell these patients to take appropriate preventive action, like wearing a face mask, containing their cough, etc., when arriving at the healthcare facility.
Keep patients in airborne infection isolation rooms. Patients may remove face masks when inside these rooms. Outside, they should wear masks, and should only be outside the room when being transported to medically essential procedures. Only essential staff should enter the room. These patients should also have dedicated HCPs.
Practice hand hygiene. Clean your hands with ABHS before and after all patient contact, after contact with potentially infectious material, and before putting on and upon removal of personal protective equipment.
Wear personal protective equipment. Follow the correct protocol for wearing gloves, gowns, respiratory and eye protection when interacting with a patient with suspected COVID-19. Make sure you also follow the CDC guidelines for donning and doffing these articles, as well as how to dispose of them.
Be careful with aerosol-generating procedures. These procedures are likely to inducing coughing in the patient and should be avoided, if possible. These procedures should happen in an AIIR, and HCPs present should make an extra effort to wear their PPE correctly. All surfaces in the room should be cleaned promptly afterward. These recommendations also apply for collecting a respiratory sample for testing, which can also induce coughing.
As of February 20, there were more than 75,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 2,100 deaths. There are 15 confirmed cases in the U.S. in seven states.
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the U.S., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Patients with Confirmed 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) or Persons Under Investigation for 2019-nCoV in Healthcare Settings, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC Media Telebriefing: Update on COVID-19 February 14, 2020, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.