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Last updated: 16.03.20

Coronavirus and the importance of infection prevention and control

Coronavirus and the importance of infection prevention and control

With the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19, we thought it was critical to share the importance of infection control and what actions you can take. But, first, we’ll provide a quick summary of the virus. It must be noted, that as this is a new virus, health organisations and professionals are still learning about its characteristics so information may change, but here we outline what is currently shared by the World Health Organization (WHO), the NHS and gov.uk.

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness in animals and humans. In humans, they cause respiratory infections, which range from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-COV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-COV).

A new strain which has not previously been identified in humans are referred to as a novel coronavirus. The current one is referred to as COVID-19.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms are a high temperature, tiredness and a dry cough, and in more severe cases, it can lead to a shortness of breath. But, overall, the symptoms are usually mild and build gradually. Other less common symptoms have included aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, diarrhoea, and confusion. In serious cases, it has also led to organ failure and viral pneumonia.

It must be remembered that these symptoms are similar to other more common illnesses such as the common cold and seasonal flu, so if you present with these symptoms it won’t necessarily mean you have the virus.

How does COVID-19 spread?

As it is a new virus, they are not 100% certain how it spreads, but the current research believes that it is spread through respiratory droplets, the same way similar viruses are spread. These droplets can be spread through sneezing, coughing or exhaling, which can be caught if you are stood nearby; they can also land on objects and surfaces, and other people can pick up the virus by touching these surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

The importance of infection prevention and control

As there is currently no vaccine or cure for this virus, it is incredibly important to carry out actions that help prevent and control infection from spreading. Infection prevention and control is the understanding of how infections occur and spread and is an integral parts of healthcare settings – it is a crucial to ensuring patient safety. It includes a set of actions they must follow including handwashing techniques, use of protective clothing, and how to dispose of waste. Though it is usually associated with clinical settings, these are principles we should take into our homes and workplaces.

In relation to COVID-19, here is the advice to help slow the virus from spreading:

  • Clean hands frequently – either with water and soap or alcohol-based rub.
  • Keep a social distance – 1m (3 feet) is the recommended distance to stay away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Use disposable tissues – dispose of them straightaway once used and then wash your hands.
  • Cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing – either with a tissue or your bent elbow.
  • Don’t share personal hygiene items, such as towels or toothbrushes
  • Avoid touching your hands, eyes or nose with unwashed hands

If you would like a reminder of these techniques, download our infographic. You may also find our hand-washing poster useful to ensure you and your staff are following the correct techniques. We have also created a FREE online course on infection prevention and control which includes important tips you should follow over the coming weeks.

 

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