Wuhan Coronavirus: Protecting Yourself And Your Patients

Health care providers and patients are at risk.

There are now 5 confirmed cases of the Wuhan Coronavirus in Australia; a number that has been climbing since the first Australian case was announced on Saturday. Measures are being taken to help prevent further spread of the virus, and those that suspect they may be displaying symptoms are encouraged to isolate themselves and seek medical attention urgently.

Originating from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the virus has so far affected over 4.5 thousand people globally, with the death toll currently sitting at 106. The virus causes symptoms of pneumonia, including, fever, cough, shortness of breath and feeling unwell and tired. It is believed the incubation period is around 14 days, and sufferers may not immediately present signs of infection.

The city of Wuhan is in lockdown, and roughly 400 Australian citizens who have travelled to the area have registered to be evacuated. Australian embassy officials are meeting with Chinese authorities in Beijing to discuss the options. “Right now, the Australian government, through our embassy, is looking to deploy, working with the Chinese government, consular officials into Hubei province, into Wuhan,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday (Tuesday 28th).

Gold Coast-based Cosmetic Doctor and GP Dr Nora Sadek is encouraging other health and cosmetic practitioners to implement protective measures to ensure the safety of their patients and themselves.

“It is thought that the virus may be transmitted through airborne droplets from sneezing or coughing and it is felt that the P2/N95 masks may offer some protection,” she says. “As a health care practitioner seeing around 50 patients a day it is my utmost priority to look after my patients and ensure that they are safe.”

Unfortunately, the demand for the P2 masks are so high at the moment that plenty of stockists have completely sold out, so (as Dr Nora experienced first-hand) practitioners may have to shop around a little in order to find stock.

“After work (on Monday) I rushed over to my local hardware store and enquired about the mask. Unfortunately, they and all of their other franchises had run out and the only ones left were darth-Vader-esq masks. After much deliberation I got over the aesthetics and remembered the purpose and bought one. As I drove away I thought I would call local pharmacies to check their stocks. After calling 20 different pharmacies over a span of 60km I was met with the same response ‘sorry we’re out of stock’. Rather fortunately I drove past the hospital and thought perhaps I could ask my colleagues there and explain the situation. After speaking with the staff in ED they kindly gave me a mask for myself and my staff.”

So, once you have ensured your own protection whilst in contact with patients, what advice should you be passing onto others?

  • General hygiene measures are crucial, such as regular hand washing
  • Ensure patients are aware of symptoms and what to look out for
  • Currently, it has not been recommended for the general public to wear masks outside of the health care setting, but it may be best to be equipped with one if visiting GPs or hospitals
  • Those shopping for P2 masks may find them via Amazon, Bunnings, eBay, Officeworks, or their local chemist

Currently, Australian scientists are working towards a vaccination for the virus. In fact, earlier this morning, it was announced that experts at Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity on Tuesday became the world’s first scientific lab outside of China to recreate the virus – a major breakthrough in the global fight against the disease.

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