The 2019 Novel Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. While details about the source and spreading of the infection are still being researched, we do know that can be spread person-to-person, and symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) consider this virus to be a severe public health threat but have stated that the immediate health risk to the general American public is low at this time. As of the time of this publication, there are just over 43,000 cases confirmed and about 1,000 total deaths. Only 13 of those confirmed cases are in the United States, where there have been zero deaths.
Since there is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV, here are some prevention best practices to share with your community:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Being a first responder, you must be prepared for the possibility of responding to an incident in which you may need to evaluate patients for the virus. Below are some steps for all emergency personnel to keep in mind:
- Stay up to date on the latest information about signs and symptoms, diagnostic testing, and case definitions for 2019-nCoV disease (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019- nCoV/summary.html).
- Review your infection prevention and control policies and CDC infection control recommendations for 2019-nCoV (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/infectioncontrol.html) for:
- Be alert for patients who meet the persons under investigation (PUI).
- Know how to report a potential 2019-nCoV case or exposure to facility infection control leads and public health officials.
- Know who, when, and how to seek evaluation by occupational health following an unprotected exposure (i.e., not wearing recommended PPE) to a suspected or confirmed nCoV patient.
If you are an EMT, the CDC recommends these considerations explicitly for EMS Management and transport:
- If the patient exhibits symptoms of an acute febrile lower respiratory infection (fever, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, cough):
- Place a surgical mask on the patient AND
- Obtain a detailed travel history to affected countries within the past 14 days or close contact with someone under investigation for 2019-nCoV.
- If there is a history consistent with a concern for potential 2019-coronavirus (2019-nCoV), initiate standard contact and airborne precautions (gloves, gown, N95 respirator) and eye protection (goggles) for EMS clinicians.
- Notify the receiving hospital (according to local protocols) of potential infection as soon as possible to allow for emergency department preparation.
- Use caution with aerosol-generating procedures.
- Properly doff and dispose of PPE according to protocol.
- Cleaning and disinfection using EPA registered disinfectants with known effectiveness against human coronaviruses.
- Waste management per policy for medical waste (red bag).
To keep up to date on how to best prepare and respond to occurrences of the 2049-nCoV, check these resources regularly:
- 2019-nCoV Overview for EMS Agencies(National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
- 2019-nCoV Situation Overview(CDC)
- Interim Guidance for Healthcare Providers(CDC)
- Preparedness Checklist for 2019-nCoV(CDC)
- Infection Control for Suspected 2019-nCoV Patients(WHO)
- Frequently Asked Questions: 2019 Novel Coronavirus(CDC)
- Live Map of 2019-nCoV Cases(CDC and Johns Hopkins University)