Facilities Directors face a multi-faceted dilemma when considering the possibility of a viral pandemic or infection outbreak such as what we are seeing transpire around the globe with the Coronavirus: The time is now to either gather policies already in place for an epidemic/pandemic/emergency preparedness sentinel event or prepare one.
Necessary for inclusion in your planning: Infection Prevention, prevention procedures and training to reduce risk of worker illness and appropriate disinfection/decontamination of possible surface transmission sites within the facility.
Let’s recap what IS known at this point:
The virus known as SARS-CoV-2 outbreak originated in Wuhan, China in late 2019. The disease this specific virus causes is COVID-19
COVID-19, as of this writing, has been confirmed in 60 countries including the US.
The novel coronavirus is a respiratory infection and the infection appears to spread via human-to-human contact or contact with infected surfaces. Per the CDC, Person-to-person spread is thought to happen:
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
For confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Symptoms can include:
Shortness of breath
Above appear more severe in those with underlying medical conditions and immunity deficiencies
Similar to prior epidemics such as SARS or influenza pandemics, COVID-19 has potential for significant business and travel disruption as well as supply shortages. As experienced in a peak influenza illness, we can expect changes in patterns of consumption of good and services and delayed shipment or availability of items.
First and foremost, our immediate line of defense and most important to convey to staff:
WASH HANDS WELL: Soap and water for at least 20 seconds
Avoid touching face or mouth with unwashed hands
Frequent disinfection of frequently touched objects and surfaces. The virus may remain active on surfaces for up to 9 days per The Journal of Hospital Infection.
Encourage sick employees to stay home
Planning on how you will reduce risk to your staff
OSHA tells us the ways pandemic influenza might affect your workplace: “You may witness absenteeism of up to 40% of workers sick or caring for the sick”
How long does the virus live on environmental surfaces? InfectionControl.tips, January 30, 2020, *Dr. Syed Sattar is Professor Emeritus of Microbiology at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa. He is also a co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at CREM CO. He’s a world-renowned expert who regularly advises national and international agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO), and private-sector companies.Dr. Sattar tells us: “Environmental Surfaces: CoV are more stable on high-touch environmental surfaces (HITES) as compared to other enveloped viruses [11; 12]. More recently, deposition of respiratory pathogens on HITES at airport was tested using PCR . Even though this study yielded some positive findings, their significance requires careful interpretation because of the limited relevance of molecular approaches to detect pathogens in environmental samples. Such testing has high value when analyzing clinical samples, but detection of infectious virus is essential in testing environmental samples to better assess the potential for infection. Mathematical modeling also suggests a role for HITES as fomites in the spread of CoV infections in healthcare settings; this area also needs further investigation.
How long does the virus live on the human hand? “Skin: Since safety and ethical considerations would not permit the experimental contamination of human subjects with infectious CoV, we have used CoV 229E as a surrogate to study the potential of such viruses to survive on human hands. Preliminary findings from such experiments indicate that nearly 45% of infectious virus remains viable on the hands of adults after 1 hour. Such virus survival is longer than that for other enveloped respiratory viruses (e.g., parainfluenzavirus type 3), which become undetectable in about 10 minutes on human skin. “…the limited data available indicate that coronaviruses as a group are more stable in the environment than other enveloped viruses.”
Stay up to date with information and guidance from the CDC:
Sources, Dr. Sattar: