By Samantha Hilyer
As SVC enters the peak of flu season on its campus, China is in the midst of grappling with the deadly coronavirus on the other side of the globe.
Kathy Prosperi, registered nurse at the Saint Vincent Wellness Center, said a campus outbreak of the coronavirus, officially labeled as 2019-nCoV, is unlikely. However, she said there is a plan, just in case.
“Saint Vincent’s preparedness plan for an unlikely outbreak of 2019-nCoV is to screen any ill student with fever, cough, or shortness of breath,” Prosperi stated.
The student would be asked if he/she has had any recent travel to China in the last 14 days, or been in close contact with an ill, laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV patient.
“[The student] would then be isolated and the Department of Public Health will be contacted for further testing and monitoring,” Prosperi explained.
The coronavirus is a respiratory illness that has been ravaging China, especially the epicenter of the pandemic, Wuhan City, China. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), little information is known about the current 2019-nCoV strain of coronavirus; however, this particular virus is a part of a large family of viruses that are typically found in various different species of animals, including camels, cattle, bats and cats.
It is rare for an animal coronavirus to infect human beings but the current outbreak in Wuhan City is being linked to an extensive seafood and live animal market, suggesting an animal to human spread. It is also apparent that the virus has developed the ability to spread from person to person.
“Saint Vincent’s preparedness plan for an unlikely outbreak of 2019-nCoV is to screen any ill student with fever, cough, or shortness of breath.” - Kathy Prosperi
The symptoms of the flu (influenza) – fever, cough, and shortness of breath – are similar to the symptoms of 2019-nCoV, which can make diagnosis of the virus difficult.
Currently, the only way that the virus can be detected is through laboratory testing. However, only people with a recent travel history to China or contact with a laboratory confirmed 2019-nCoV patient are being tested for the virus.
As of now, according to the CDC website, there have been 13 confirmed cases of the 2019-nCoV virus in the United States. The most recent case was detected in California. The patient, who had recently returned from Wuhan, China, is now under a federal quarantine order and the CDC reported that it is “conducting a thorough contact investigation of the person who has tested positive,” in order to prevent a further spread of the virus.
Because, according to the CDC, there is currently no vaccine available to prevent the 2019-nCoV infection, the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to “avoid being exposed” to the virus. However, everyday preventative measures can help prevent the spread of the virus as well.
These measures include:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
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.
“[The student] would then be isolated and the Department of Public Health will be contacted for further testing and monitoring.” - Kathy Prosperi
In addition, individuals should also follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
People who are well are not recommended to use a face mask to protect themselves from the virus.
Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms in order to protect others from risk of infection.
Finally, individuals should exercise proper handwashing technique. The CDC recommends individuals wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, individuals should sanitize their hands using a 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer.