We now have a name for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus: COVID-19. The disease, which was first identified in the Wuhan province of China, was renamed by the World Health Organization, to avoid stigmatizing any geographical location, animal or individual with the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more cases of COVID-19 are likely to be identified in the coming days. There are 19 confirmed cases in the U.S. The CDC says it is probable that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in the United States. NACHC is directly communicating with the CDC Coronavirus Response Task Force on a regular basis.
“Our focus is to regularly communicate with the health center field and keep them up to date on CDC recommendations, ” said Ronald Yee, MD, Chief Medical Officer of NACHC. “It is important that we educate and not alarm and above all else ensure that health centers have the tools they need to implement clinical protocols in response to COVID-19 if necessary, working in partnership with local public health departments, organizations and community stakeholders.”
Among the challenges for health centers, is an increase of fears about the disease and walk-in visits. There have also been reported shortages of masks and protective gear. Health center staff are carrying out screening measures – both in exam rooms and over the phone – to assess a patient’s potential risk. Patients who come in with respiratory infections and a history of recent travel to China require consultation with public health officials – and in some cases, immediate transportation to a hospital.
A previous NACHC Blog Post identified actions that can be taken to help respond to this global health threat. However, it’s also important to note that influenza remains an even higher risk for communities. The CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 26 million flu illnesses, 250,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths from flu. Health officials recommend a vaccination for the best protection against the flu.