By CHELLE CORDERO, Correspondent | April 01, 2020 | NEW YORK
Story No. 030920106
Every few years there seems to be another fast-spreading and sometimes fatal virus that makes headlines and puts fear into commuters, schools and all crowded scenarios. The CDC and local emergency management officials try to figuratively put out the fires and spread common sense health tips. Meanwhile health workers have to deal with these very real threats head-on and in person.
As I am writing this article a news bulletin flashed across the screen about a FDNY EMS worker testing positive for Coronavirus…it almost had to happen. Emergency service personnel are often the first on scene and need to assess patients who may be carrying highly infectious diseases. Covid-19 (aka NCov and Coronavirus), Measles, the Flu (and it’s many strains), MRSA, VRSA, TB, C-Diff, HIV, and several other illnesses can spread through the tiny water droplets of a cough or sneeze, bodily fluids, or germs that can live on inanimate objects for even brief periods of time.
No matter what a dispatcher can relay to the responding units, no matter how accurate, what waits for EMS providers beyond the patient’s door is an unknown. All EMS personnel and other first responders need to take steps to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as: protecting themselves with the appropriate PPE (gloves, masks, eye shields); correctly assessing the patient and asking pertinent questions (especially about travel and contact with others who have traveled); properly informing the receiving hospital facility so that they can prepare for isolation; and thoroughly disinfect and prepare their equipment and ambulance before exposing any more patients or crew. For your personal protection, maintain your health with a nutritious diet and get sufficient sleep in order to keep your immunities up.
The Coronavirus, like the Flu, simple colds and seasonal allergies can all present with sneezing, coughing and respiratory difficulties. The viruses that cause the Flu or Covid-19 also present with a high fever which may sometimes be as high as 103-degrees. During assessment and transport it would be wise to place a mask on your patient and especially with respiratory difficulties, using an Oxygen mask would both aid his/her breathing and contain any droplets from coughing and sneezing. Even without all the symptoms present it is wise to treat all patients with the upmost of precaution for your sake as well as theirs and any contact you have with other patients and even friends and family. There are confirmed positive Coronavirus tests on patients that did not exhibit any symptoms. And if you know that you have had any contact with a Coronavirus patient you need to inform your boss, the hospital (if you are bringing the patient in), and your doctor.
Remember after every call, remove your PPE and bag all used gloves, gowns, masks and face shields for proper disposal. Remember to remove your used gloves before removing face shields and masks, use a clean pair of gloves not to contaminate your hands. Using gloves and hospital grade disinfectant, clean all surfaces inside the ambulance compartment, remember to wipe both sides of any handholds and handles. Clean all equipment (BP cuff, stethoscope, etc.) that made contact with the patient, as well as all equipment you touched during transport with possibly contaminated gloves.
This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.