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St. Joseph’s/Candler prepared for coronavirus or any infectious disease

Feb 26, 2020

Read the March 4 Update

Infection preventionist nurse offers tips on how you can try to prevent getting this respiratory virus

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the coronavirus will inevitably spread in the United States, St. Joseph’s/Candler wants to remind people that the CDC also notes there is still a low risk of contracting the respiratory virus.

But St. Joseph’s/Candler is prepared if cases reach Savannah.

At St. Joseph’s/Candler, our co-workers are prepared year-round to handle infectious diseases, from tuberculosis to new ones like the coronavirus. We follow all CDC recommendations to handle infectious diseases, including current ones for coronavirus, says Rita Allen, Infection Preventionist at St. Joseph’s/Candler.

The Coronavirus is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. It’s officially named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes has been named coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 for short. It was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and has now been reported in countries on every continent except Antarctica.

Currently in the United States, there are 59 Americans with the coronavirus – most are travelers from a cruise ship. Only two have spread person to person. There are no known cases in the Savannah region, but St. Joseph’s/Candler is prepared if a patient were to come in with symptoms.

Personal protective equipment

At both St. Joseph’s Hospital and Candler Hospital, we stock personal protective equipment (PPE) – head covers, masks, eye protection, gowns, gloves, coveralls and disposable boots – specifically designated to treat patients suspected of having an infectious virus, Allen says. The emergency room staff is trained regularly on guidelines for putting on and taking off PPE.

Both hospitals also have negative pressure rooms that are always prepared to be in use. These rooms are intended for patient isolation and are designed so that when the door opens air goes inside the room and not out, Allen explains.

Healthcare professionals at not just our hospitals, but also urgent and primary care locations, know to look for symptoms of coronavirus and ask this very important question: “Where have you traveled to recently?”

Symptoms to look for include:

  • fatigue  
  • fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath

However, coronavirus may also be asymptomatic, Allen says; that’s why it’s important to inform your healthcare providers of your travel history or if you’ve come in contact with someone suspected of having coronavirus or who’s traveled in an area with confirmed cases.

What you can do

For the general population, your risk of getting coronavirus is low. Those at high-risk are the elderly, very young and those with a compromised or weakened immune system – as is the case with many infectious diseases such as the flu.

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. There are simple, everyday preventative steps you can take to help prevent the spread of any respiratory virus:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • If you are sick, stay home
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Clean frequently-touched surfaces regularly, such as door knobs, light switches, toys and other items
  • Always cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or the sleeve of your arm
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with coronavirus, Allen says to call your healthcare provider who can make recommendations as to stay home or go to the emergency department. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call 9-1-1 immediately. 

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