News Americas, New York, NY, Thurs. Mar. 12, 2020: The effects of the novel coronavirus, now known as Covid-19, are beginning to spread rapidly. Not only is the spread of the virus reaching pandemic proportions, but the impact on stock markets is beginning to pose a serious threat to the global economy.
Within the last few days, the CDC has announced Covid-19 has hit the US and that the virus could potentially cause huge disruption. As always, nurses are on the frontlines of dealing with this pandemic. How hard it will hit remains to be seen, but so far, the virus has shown no signs of slowing its global spread.
What Is Covid-19?
Covid-19 is a coronavirus, in the same family of viruses as SARS and MERS.
- What are coronaviruses? Coronaviruses are a common family of viruses. There are many things that can cause the symptoms we ascribe to the common cold, but the most common culprit is one of four coronaviruses. They cause mild respiratory symptoms in most people, and although more serious reactions are rare, they do happen. Covid-19 is obviously more serious than these other variants.
- Where did it come from? Covid-19 originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where most of the current cases are centered. Coronaviruses like SARS, MERS, and Covid-19 originate in animals, who are able to tolerate them. Once the virus mutates in a way that enables it to transmit from animals to people, it can jump between species. Viruses that move between species are more deadly because viruses ultimately do not want to kill their hosts. In the animals they are carried in, coronaviruses cause mild gastrointestinal issues.
Covid-19 originated in a wet market in China, a market where freshly slaughtered animals are deconstructed and sold. This fits with what we know about the origins of other coronaviruses like MERS and SARS.
- How infectious is it? Right now, our understanding of the virus is limited and largely based on a single study conducted in China. There have been issues with the way that China has been gathering data, and some people are worried that we don’t have an accurate picture of the situation. It is transmitted by coughing and by surface contact. It seems to be a little bit less infectious than regular flu.
- How dangerous is it? The mortality rate is believed to be between 1 and 3%, which would put it on par with the Spanish Flu of 1918-19. However, this is significantly less lethal than SARS, which kills around 10% of people who get it, and MERS, which kills 30%. While most of the people who have died because of Covid-19 had pre-existing health conditions, there have also been cases of young and healthy people, including the doctor who first raised the alarm, dying from the virus. However, while 1-3% sounds low, bear in mind that the annual flu has a mortality rate of 0.1% – this is around 20 times as high.
- Do I need to take any precautions in my personal life? The CDC expects the virus to sweep through the US to some degree, although it is hard to predict how bad it will be. However, we have good reason to expect that, in terms of both deaths and infections, Covid-19 has the potential to be very serious.
All the places Covid-19 will affect the USA is still being counted. The Spanish Flu of 1918-19, which is comparable to Covid-19 in terms of its rates of infection and mortality, came in waves. Viruses don’t like hot weather, so some will flare-up in the spring before apparently vanishing, only to come back with a vengeance in the winter. That’s what happened with Spanish Flu – it was the second wave that caused the most deaths.
If you are someone who suffers from a pre-existing health condition or is otherwise more susceptible than most to the effects of viruses, you might want to consider taking measures to protect yourself. Avoiding large gatherings of people and crowds is an important step to take. If you are still completing your initial nursing qualifications, you might want to consider finishing your studies through a distance learning course. You can find online accelerated bsn programs for non-nurses that enable you to level up your RN qualification even quicker than usual.
How Can Nurses Protect Themselves From The Virus?
There are some steps that nurses and their employers can take to minimize their risk of exposure to the virus.
- Be prepared: If everyone knows what to look out for, everyone can be prepared for what to do in an outbreak. It is vital that healthcare facilities have a plan of action for what to do if they have a case of suspected coronavirus.
- Make sure everyone is trained: Ensure that every healthcare professional in your organization has been trained in what to look out for and how to respond in order to diagnose and react to a potential case of coronavirus.
- Keep updating training as new information comes to light: We are still in the early days of this virus and our understanding of it. As new information comes to light, make sure that you are keeping all of your relevant staff members fully updated.
- Refresh screening and isolation procedures: Keep drilling these into everyone’s heads! Again, pay attention to any advice issues by the CDC and make sure that you stick to it.
- Wash hands regularly: Covid-19 can be spread through surface contact. It is important that you keep washing your hands with antibacterial soap and ensure that you are following proper hygiene practices.
Nurses need to be prepared to spot the warning signs and to react appropriately to protect their health and the health of the public.