Dr Eshani Karu MD
As the U.S. faces the threat posed by the COV-ID 19 crisis, what can we, as health care providers do to keep our patients safe? As a family practitioner myself, at the onset of the COV-ID 19 pandemic, I found myself faced with this question. As with many of you, I turned to the CDC for guidance. At our office, we confirm all patients scheduled for the next day via phone. We instructed our staff to screen patients for COV-ID 19 symptoms of a cough, sore throat and fever, and for travel to the countries where COV-ID 19 is in high prevalence, including China, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan, Spain, and inside the U.S., New York, and Seattle , or for contact with an individual who has traveled to those areas. If patients identify those symptoms, with or without travel to an endemic area, we direct them to the nearest ER. However, we, as health care providers are obligated to go a step further to protect the safety of our healthy patients. Firstly, all health care providers should realize that the people who will get seriously ill from COV-ID 19 will be older adults ,especially those with serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease. Tell all patients in the high risk category to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds , especially after having been in contact with surfaces in a public place. If patients do not have access to handwashing facilities, advise them to use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol. Patients with unwashed hands should not touch their eyes, nose or mouth until their hands have been washed. Most importantly, however, to avoid community spread of this virus, you must counsel patient to quarantine themselves at home and avoid exposure to public places unless absolutely necessary to do critical activities such as go to the bank to get money, or to the grocery store for food. The guidelines for health care practitioners and staff are just as simple. For the safety of our staff, and our healthy patients, we disinfect the waiting room multiple times a day, and when in contact with patients with respiratory symptoms, we wear personal protective equipment.
However, the constant media coverage of the COV-ID 19 pandemic raises many questions from concerned patients, especially regarding testing. You , as a healthcare provider, should direct patients to the nearest public health laboratory for testing , but only if they meet the guidelines issued by the CDC. At the current time, the CDC is recommending that health care providers follow the guidelines issued by their local health departments regarding testing for COV-ID 19. For our practice, we called the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which limited testing to only symptomatic health care workers as of last week. However, as health care personnel, we need not despair. Hope is on the horizon in the form of potential treatments. Per the CDC, two drugs are currently being investigated and tested for treatment of COV-ID 19, hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir. Both drugs have shown promising activity in fighting the virus in the laboratory - clinical trials are currently underway to test the efficacy of these drugs in humans. But the important take-away message at this time is to not panic and carry on. The majority of people recover from COV-ID 19 without any treatment. This message is one that you, as a health care practitioner should take to heart, and repeat to your patients many times over. We must educate our patients to prevent widespread panic and at the same time, curb this pandemic.