While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other global entities are working together to understand and control the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), it is particularly important for healthcare workers to follow critical guidelines to help contain the spread of any virus. “Healthcare workers are at risk for exposure to serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases,” says Hank Drummond, Chief Clinical Officer at Cross Country Healthcare. “If you work directly with patients or handle material that could spread infection, we encourage you to follow several strategies to help protect yourself and others.”
Be sure to get appropriate vaccines to reduce the chance that you will get or spread vaccine-preventable diseases. Make sure you are up to date with recommended vaccines. For a list of Centers for Disease Control recommended vaccines, click here.
One of the most important ways to reduce the spread of infections is regularly washing the hands with soap and water. Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or using tissues. See the OSH Hand Washing – Reducing the Risk of Common Infections for more details.
An important part of prevention is surface disinfection to help remove viruses from surfaces and prevent their spread in the facility and externally into the community. In the U.S., the outbreak situation has triggered the Environmental Protection Agency’s Emerging Pathogen Policy. This policy determines whether disinfectants that meet certain efficacy criteria can be considered effective against the 2019-nCoV. Contact your disinfection product manufacturer for the latest information on whether their products can be considered to be effective against 2019-nCoV.
Prepare your Facility
There are several effective practices that facility managers and healthcare leaders can ensure are in place to help contain the spread of viruses. These include:
- Have an infection control plan.
- Provide clean hand washing facilities.
- Offer alcohol-based hand sanitizers when regular facilities are not available.
- Provide boxes of tissues and encourage their use.
- Remind staff to not share cups, glasses, dishes and cutlery.
- Remove magazines and papers from waiting areas or common rooms.
- Make sure ventilation systems are working properly.
Follow the Basics
All healthcare workers should also follow common practices to slow the spread of infections, including:
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Use a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your arm, not your hand. Turn away from other people.
- Use single-use tissues. Dispose of the tissue immediately.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
Proactive Steps for 2019-nCoV Containment
Healthcare providers are urged to take proactive steps to prevent the spread of 2019-nCoV, including obtaining a travel history for patients presenting with fever and/or symptoms of lower respiratory illness (i.e. cough, difficulty breathing). For patients under investigation, providers should:
- Ask patients to wear a surgical mask as soon as they are identified.
- Conduct their evaluation in a private room with the door closed, ideally an airborne infection isolation room, if available.
- Use standard precautions, contact precautions, and airborne precautions and use eye protection (e.g., goggles or a face shield) for all personnel entering the room.
- Implement basic infection control measures including hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette (e.g., masking), and environmental disinfection.
“Cross Country Healthcare partners with our clients to ensure safe work environments for both the patients we serve and our staff. We will remain vigilante and communicate any updates on the current 2019-nCoV situation to all of our healthcare workers,” Mr. Drummond added.
If you have any questions or concerns, you are encouraged to call the Cross Country Healthcare Clinical Hotline at 800-998-5058. For that latest information, read our latest blog on 2019-nCoV.