Whenever there is an outbreak of infectious disease, nurses’ roles change to adapt to the needs of the patients, their families, and the hospital. In retrospect, healthcare facilities must implement the right prevention practices to avoid occupational exposure for healthcare personnel and healthcare-associated disease transmission. That is especially critical with the recent cases of Coronavirus.
Which begs the question, what should nurses know about the Coronavirus (CoV)? Here is a factsheet about the infectious disease, including its clinical features, epidemiology, transmission, diagnostics, case management, and control measures.
What is Coronavirus (CoV)?
CoV is a human pathogen that was first discovered in the 1960s. On 31 December 2019, Chinese authorities identified a novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) linked to a family of pneumonia cases in Wuhan.
The new Coronavirus infects humans and most vertebrates. Those infected tend to exhibit gastrointestinal or respiratory infections.
Symptoms and Transmission of Novel Coronavirus
Because 2019-nCoV is new, there is little information about the virus. However, symptoms of Coronavirus can range from the common cold to pneumonia. Others include difficulty breathing, myalgia or fatigue, and fever.
A strain of these viruses is common in bats, although these animal species are intermediate hosts to the virus. When infecting humans, the virus tends to target the gastrointestinal tract and respiratory cells, which causes viral shedding through the systems.
As a result, the transmission of the virus can occur via airborne or contact with bodily fluids and fomites. The most notable route of infection in people is through contact with respiratory secretions of those infected.
It can happen directly via sneezing or coughing, or indirectly via touching contaminated surfaces. Currently, 2019-Novel Coronavirus causes or sources of transmission are unknown.
Since it was first reported in 2019, the biggest challenge for healthcare professionals has been to diagnose the virus, which is a common challenge with new cases of infectious diseases.
For nurses and doctors, the best way of diagnosing the virus is to follow the interim guidance developed by health organizations such as the WHO, CDC, and ECDC. The most recommended method is to conduct a Real-Time RT-PCR Panel for the detection of 2019-nCoV.
Managing the 2019-Novel Coronavirus
The CDC recommends that healthcare professionals should take care of patients who exhibit 2019-nCoV by subjecting them to an Airborne Infection Isolation Room (AIIR).
Nurses should use standard contact and airborne precautions with eye protection when caring for such patients. Although hospitalization is crucial, it may not be necessary for patients that show mild clinical presentation of the virus.
However, nurses should be careful with such patients because clinical symptoms can worsen once the virus progresses to the lower respiratory system. It can happen in the second week after infection, therefore, close monitoring of the affected becomes necessary. People with underlying medical conditions, pregnant women, and the elderly are at a high risk of getting the virus and progressing to severe stages of illness.
Currently, there is no treatment or antiviral drugs for 2019-nCoV. Lack of proper treatment for the virus is the reason why the Coronavirus death toll is over 1,300 as of 13 February 2020. The infected must get supportive care to help relieve their symptoms. For those with severe cases, the CDC recommends the best treatment should be to support the functions of their vital organs.