Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in humans and in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and now with SARS-CoV-2 causing the disease COVID-19. The epidemic of SARS-CoV-2 has expanded from Wuhan throughout China and has been exported to a growing number of countries around the world. Signs and symptoms include respiratory symptoms and include fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and sometimes death. Standard recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include frequent cleaning of hands using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water; covering the nose and mouth with a flexed elbow or disposable tissue when coughing and sneezing; and avoiding close contact with anyone that has a fever and cough.
Doctors and nurses are on the front lines of caring for patients with confirmed or possible infection with coronavirus disease 2019 and therefore have an increased risk of exposure to this virus.
Thousands of health care workers have been infected amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, a sign of the immensely difficult working conditions for doctors and nurses, who should be among those best protected against infection.
The infections, along with the deaths of several doctors in China, underscore the deeply challenging, chaotic environment that health care workers confront when toiling on the front lines of an outbreak. They face long hours, changing protocols, potential medical supply shortages, and risks to their own personal health and that of their loved ones.
Doctors and nurses on the front lines are exposed to hazards that put them at risk of infection with COVID-19. Hazards include pathogen exposure, long working hours, psychological distress, fatigue, occupational burnout and stigma.
Global Alliance for Infections in Surgery is asking that managers in health facilities worldwide:
Assume overall responsibility to ensure that all necessary preventive and protective measures are taken to minimize occupational safety and health risks.
Provide information, instruction and training on occupational safety and health, including;
– Refresher training on infection prevention and control (IPC); and
– Use, putting on, taking off and disposal of personal protective equipment (PPE);
Provide adequate IPC and PPE supplies (masks, gloves, goggles, gowns, hand sanitizer, soap and water, cleaning supplies) in sufficient quantity to healthcare or other staff caring for suspected or confirmed.
Recognize the great work that doctors and nurses are doing, often, in settings absolutely unprepared for this emergency, and accept suggestions for its management.