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PEF Nurses Committee shares information and tips on coronavirus


The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a global health emergency. PEF’s Statewide Nurses Committee has advice for members and their families, as well as members who work in health care settings.

Nora Higgins, Region 12 Coordinator

“As far as we know, anyone can be affected,” said Nurses Committee Co-Chair Nora Higgins, a neonatal intensive care nurse at SUNY Stony Brook. “Anyone can be exposed. Most get respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The virus is spread before symptoms appear, as compared with SARS, which had spread when symptomatic.”

With more cases reported daily, the best weapon against the spread of the virus is consistent handwashing and good respiratory practices. When you cough or sneeze use a tissue to cover and wash your hands immediately.

“In the community, in the workplace and at home, handwashing is key,” Higgins said.

Originally seen only in animals, the coronavirus has spread to at least 17 counties, at the time of publication. In the United States, there are just over a dozen cases. Thousands of cases are being reported on a daily basis, with four out of five of those cases being reported from China.

For those PEF members who work in a health care setting, Higgins and the committee urge adherence to facility protocols.

“Health care professionals please abide by your agency policies and protocols to protect yourself and your patient population by using the personal protection equipment recommended,” Higgins said.

New York State, as well as individual agencies such as SUNY, released guidance to staff with information, websites and contact numbers.

“The bottom line? Wash your hands,” Higgins said. “There is no vaccine available yet to prevent acquiring this virus.”

According to WHO, as of February 14, there were 47,500 laboratory-confirmed cases in China and 16,427 cases that have been clinically confirmed in Hubei province, making it more than 63,000 in total. The death toll has risen to 1,381. China also released data on infections among health workers, which stands at 1,716 reported cases and six deaths.

Outside China, as of February 17, there were 794 confirmed cases in 25 countries, with three deaths.

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