Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Public arenas such as churches, schools, community agencies play an important role in protecting the health of community members, through their response, public awareness announcement, educational role, their own modelled health behaviours and their informed decision-making.
On December 31, 2019, Chinese health authorities identified a new (or novel) coronavirus (referred to as 2019-nCoV) through a series of reported cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China. The disease is now spreading and has made its way to Africa, North America and Europe.
This past weekend I observed three varying responses to the virus which concerned me:
1) I observed a group of elementary children being lectured for 20 minutes on the threat of the disease, the likelihood that either they or their family members will be exposed to it, how contagious it is and that there is a 14% chance that if a family member gets it they will die;
2) I learned of a single mother who was sent home from work and told she must stay home on unpaid leave for two weeks because a family member had recently returned from Hong Kong;
3) I also read a social media group spreading many myths about the disease and cautioning everyone to avoid interacting with anyone of Asian descent.
In an effort to provide safety and protection, I encourage you to view health and safety from a broad and holistic perspective still embracing a compassionate and inclusive approach where we refrain from discrimination, undue hardship and causing fear and stress.
Tips for preparing for a possible pandemic:
Educate and communicate: Inform your team members and constituents of the symptoms via bulletin inserts, posters and public announcements.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
In cases of potential pandemics and crises, identify who the organization spokesperson will be. Everyone wants to be a voice, but the message can become very convoluted and conflicting. Identifying one common message and the spokesperson for the organization can help alleviate fear-mongering, wrongful dismissals, financial hardship, and discrimination.
Supervision: When signing-in children observe if they have flu-type symptoms. Unless directed by public health agencies full screening is not normally recommended.
Children should be encouraged to use their own pens, pencils, tissues, etc. to reduce the need to share supplies.
Practice hand hygiene: Hand hygiene is the single most important measure for preventing the spread of infections. Everyone should be encouraged to practice handwashing frequently washing their hands with soap and warm running water for at least 15 seconds or if hand washing facilities are not available, using a 60 – 90% ABHR under adult supervision.
- Before eating lunch or snacks
- Before and after food preparation
- After using the toilet
- After sneezing or coughing
- After wiping a child’s nose (or a child wiping his/her own nose)
- Before and after using shared computers, sports equipment, etc.
Practice respiratory etiquette: Respiratory etiquette can also play an important role in reducing the spread of influenza.
Everyone should be encouraged to:
- Cough and sneeze into their sleeve (not their hands) or to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
- Immediately dispose of used tissues in a garbage can
- Perform hand hygiene after disposing of tissues
Avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose: Influenza spreads when the respiratory secretions from the mouth or nose of an infected person come in contact with the mouth, nose or eyes (i.e., mucous membranes) of another person. To reduce the spread of the virus, students and staff should be encouraged to avoid touching their eyes, mouth, and nose.
Stay home when ill: Everyone (including staff) who become ill should be encouraged to stay home until they no longer have a fever and are well. Parents should be encouraged to develop contingency plans for childcare should their child become ill.
Environmental cleaning: The virus can survive for up to 48 hours on different surfaces. Frequent cleaning of surfaces/items commonly touched can help reduce the spread of the virus. The virus is easily killed by regular cleaning with commercially available cleaning products and does not require special cleaning agents or disinfectants.
Information source: Prior to closing your programs and services, we would recommend you follow the lead of your Public Health Agencies.