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SARS-CoV2 – Know the Facts

16 Mar 2020 | COVID-19, News

SARS-CoV2 – Know the Facts

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is of concern to all Victorian Allied Health Professionals (AHPs). As such it is important that we have a clear understanding of the virus, the disease it causes and how we should best look after ourselves and our patients. 

There are four key sources of information that AHPs should be aware of:

State Government

The provision of healthcare, in the Australian context, is largely a matter for state governments. As such AHPs will need to keep an eye on the information provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) via their website.

World Health Organization.

The WHO is an agency of the United Nations with access to worldwide information. It can be relied on to present accurate information and to provide sensible advice.  This can be viewed here.

Federal Government

The federal government is responsible for coordinating the national response to health emergencies including pandemics. In times like there we need to present a united front and to cooperate with our most important institutions.

Unfortunately, the federal government’s response has been sluggish, inconsistent and out of step with community expectations—VAHPA will have more to say on this matter at a later date. Nevertheless, the federal government plays an important role in controlling our borders, allocating emergency funding and in coordinating the national response to SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.

As such it is important for all AHPs to keep abreast of updates issued by the Federal government.

VAHPA

VAHPA is your union; we are here to represent your rights and interests. In this time of crisis, we are working hard to gather, analyse and provide you with accurate and relevant information. This information is being sent to you via email and can also be found on this website.

Please check your junk mail folder to make sure our emails are getting through to you—and offer this advice to colleagues.   

The following information has been compiled by VAHPA. We have made every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date. Having said that, we are not virologists or epidemiologists, and the following information is not meant to be medical advice. 

Coronaviruses—Basic Information

  • The term Coronavirus (CoV) refers to a large family of common viruses found right across the globe.
  • COVs are zoonotic, meaning that they may be transmitted between animals and humans.
  • CoVs were discovered in the early 1930s in domesticated chickens.
  • The first human coronaviruses (HCoV) were discovered in the 1960s during research into the common cold.
  • HCoV infections typically cause mild forms of respiratory and gastrointestinal disease and are now known to be second only to rhinoviruses as causes of the common cold.
  • Viruses are alive but are not generally considered to be organisms. This is because viruses are not able to reproduce themselves without the assistance of other life forms.
  • Viruses reproduce by inserting their viral genome into suitable host-cells whose biochemical mechanisms are used to synthesise and assemble replicant viruses. These replicant viruses are subsequently released from the host-cell and into the environment by a process of expulsion known as exocytosis.
  • Humans and other organisms are affected by viruses only when they become active within our cells.

The SARS-CoV-2 Virus

  • On 11 February 2020, the new coronavirus (CoV) was given the name “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2” (SARS-CoV-2). 
  • Thus, the virus is properly called SARS-CoV-2.
  • The term “novel coronavirus” (nCoV) is used to describe a new strain of CoV that has previously not been identified in humans. This designation is used on a temporary basis until the new virus is properly classified and named.
  • Club-shaped surface projections are found on all species CoVs. These projections give this family of viruses their name as they appear as a halo around the central body of the virus—the word corona means ‘crown’ or ‘halo’.
  • Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is the name of the disease that the SARS-CoV-2 virus causes.
  • The SARS-CoV-2 virus is transmittable in all areas and climates. The virus cannot be killed by cold weather, by taking a really hot bath or by hand dryers.
  • There is currently no vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Pneumonia vaccines will not protect you, nor will any of the Influenza vaccines. The SARS-CoV-2 virus needs its own vaccine and researchers are working to develop one.
  • Antibiotics work to kill bacteria and do not work against viruses.
  • Patients suffering from COVID-19 may be given antibiotics to treat a bacterial co-infection.
  • SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 is not a beat-up designed to convince the world’s population to embrace the use of (mind-controlling!) vaccinations. 

Transmission of SARS-CoV-19

  • The main mechanism by which SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted via respiratory droplets spread by coughing and sneezing.
  • SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in the gastrointestinal tract, saliva, and urine; these routes of potential transmission are being investigated further.
  • Transmission by those without symptoms is possible but is likely to be rare. 
  • Having said that, those who have contracted COVID-19 may be infectious for up to 24 hours before they experience any symptoms.

Symptoms of COVID-19

  • Those who develop COVID-19 may experience a range of symptoms including, fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, muscle pain and breathing difficulties.
  • Many people who develop COVID-19 will only experience mild symptoms.
  • The elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, including respiratory conditions, are more likely to experience severe symptoms.

Testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus

  • Testing for SARS-CoV-2 is not a simple matter.
  • There are various methods that may be used, some being more accurate than others, these include virological testing, medical imaging, pathognomonic assessment, immunological methods and electron microscopy.
  • Viral testing, using a nasopharyngeal swab, is the considered the most efficient and effective means of testing for SARS-CoV-2.
  • COVID-19 is a notifiable condition under the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019.
  • People meeting the Suspected Case definition must be tested and the Department of Health and Human Services must be informed of all positive tests hose who test positive results (generally managed by your GP).
  • For information on the definition of Suspected Case use the following link (version 13, 15 March 2020).

Infection Control

  • Wash hands often, at least before and after every patient, and for at least 20 seconds. 
  • Paper towel is recommended for drying hands.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or upper sleeve.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitise with over 60% alcohol.
  • Get the flu shot in April.
  • Avoid shaking hands.
  • For further information see The National Health and Medical Research Council’s guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection in Healthcare (2019).

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) includes masks, gowns, gloves and googles.
  • AHPs are to use PPE wherever necessary and are not to place themselves at unnecessary risk of infection.
  • There is a global shortage of Personal Protective Equipment.

Miscellaneous Information

  • The word Epidemic refers to diseases that appear at certain times and not others.
  • A Pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease. The term is generally reserved for situations of high impact or severity.
  • Endemic diseases are those that tend to reside within the population.

Conclusion

We continue to work on documentation pertaining to leave entitlements. Please contact VAHPA if any issues relating to Coronavirus arise in your workplace.  

Contact VAHPA on 1300 322 917 or at info@vahpa.asn.au.

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