As the number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States continues to grow, local communities are becoming increasingly anxious. But healthcare pro- viders on the front lines throughout the state and country are preparing. Hospitals are mobilizing resources and modifying protocols as new information about the virus emerges.
Locally, Pocahontas Memorial Hospital has treated preparation for the coronavirus in the same manner it always has in influenza season. PMH staff and patients are being continually educated about the importance of doing the “basic things” to prevent the spread of infection. Infectious disease specialists say the front line in preventing the spread of any virus is simple: frequent handwashing, using hand sanitizer, covering your cough with your arm (“cough etiquette”), and staying home from work or school if you are sick. You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, as you can pick up viruses that way, as well.
Handwashing with soap and water is continuously stressed as the best defense to prevent transmission of any virus. Disinfecting surfaces in the kitchen, bathroom and other parts of the home is another option.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
For example, between people who are in close contact with one another and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
For those coming to the hospital for any reason, hand hygiene stations are available throughout the facility. These stations are accompanied with signs and verbal instructions for patients and visitors to grab a mask if they are exhibiting signs of flu or have traveled to certain parts of the world in the past 14 days.
At the time of this writing, no cases of the coronavirus have been found in the state of West Virginia. But PMH has protocols in place should a patient present at the hospital with symptoms. In addition, if you believe you have symptoms of coronavirus, call ahead and alert the staff as to your reason for coming in.
“Our healthcare providers are receiving information on a daily basis from PMH’s Infectious Disease Registered Nurse Lori Riggsby, as well as from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure we are kept current with the transmission rate and any news regarding this virus,” Chief Executive Officer Mary Beth Barr said. “We have also added extra questions to our nursing assessments to determine the risk of a patient’s exposure. If we have a suspected case, we will follow the CDC guidelines until the diagnosis is confirmed. All patient units have been educated and are to directly contact the CDC or the WV State Health Department if needed.”
During triage, patients will be screened (asked particular questions) that if answered in a certain way would alert the staff. Questions asked would include a detailed travel history, does the patient have a fever or any kind of acute respiratory illness, has the patient been exposed to anyone suspected of being infected or someone who has recently returned from traveling outside of the country?
“If coronavirus is suspected, the patient would immediately be quarantined in a separate room with proper personal protective equipment being utilized, including a mask,” Director of Nursing Michelle Deeds said. “We would then notify our infection control Registered Nurse and the local/ state health departments for further instruction and testing. At this time there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended for the virus, only supportive care to help relieve symptoms and make the patient comfortable. There are a lot of illnesses that can present as the virus, and we would test for other possible causes of a patient’s presentation, as well.”
While the coronavirus is very similar to the flu or a common cold, the main difference with this virus is the added symptom of shortness of breath.
If there is a persistent fever with shortness of breath, the patient is advised to seek immediate medical care. If you have questions about this virus, please see the CDC website for the most up-to-date information and risk assessments.
PMH believes that they are prepared to catch and treat any potential cases.
Good hand hygiene and being cautious are the best ways to avoid catching this virus.