Reflecting on the initial early news from December 31, 2019 about a pneumonia-like illness of an unknown cause detected in Wuhan, China, I was thinking a coronavirus much like the 2003 SARS virus. On January 12, China shared the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus so that countries could prepare and develop specific diagnostic kits. As more cases appeared and transmission was apparent, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a public health emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020 in order to support countries with weaker health systems and then on March 11, 2020 WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. Who knew we would reach over thirty-one million cases globally and still counting!
There is still much to learn about SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 infection and/or disease. At a recent virtual workshop, Dr. Jay C. Butler (Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases, CDC) stated that “COVID-19 spreads more efficiently than influenza and not as efficiently as measles.” This statement speaks to the transmission of COVID-19.
With regards to transmission, there is still so much we do not know. What we do know is that it can spread from an infected person’s sneeze or cough. But what about transmission via speech or exhaled breath? What is an infectious dose? How long do infectious particles linger in the air and how far can they travel? What is the role in transmission with other body fluids that may contain SARS-CoV-2? To understand transmission of SARS-CoV-2, there are additional challenges such as what is the role with presymptomatic, asymptomatic and superspreader individuals and/or superspreading events. These many unanswered questions cause decision-makers to find a balance. That balance being precautionary principal to prevail in some cases.
Our new norm for the public has become a combination and reinforcement of the following:
- staying home when unwell
- physical distancing
- hand hygiene
- respiratory etiquette
- wearing masks when in closed indoor spaces
- regularly cleaning and disinfecting common surfaces
- self-monitoring for symptoms
So many conferences were canceled because of this pandemic and included IPAC Canada’s National Education Conference titled, “2020 Vision, What’s on the Horizon?” As we prepare for the 2021 conference in developing a theme, IPAC Canada’s Executive Director stated so eloquently, “2021 Vision, Didn’t See it Coming!”; however decided there would be too many words and left it as “2021 Vision, Now What’s on the Horizon?”
Many Infection Prevention and Control Professionals (ICPs) are preparing for National Infection Control Week from October 19-23, 2020 with the focus of this year’s theme as “Infection Prevention and Control Beyond the Horizon.” In Canada, Infection Control Week originated in 1988 with the purpose to highlight infection control efforts in Canadian hospitals, long-term care facilities and within communities. Infection Control Week provides an opportunity for ICPs to educate staff and their community about the importance of infection prevention and to promote their important work in a visible and fun way. Then in 1989 the federal government proclaimed Infection Control Week as an annual event.
Infection prevention and control has always been an important part of public health and safety and we are continually reminded of its significance as we fight COVID-19. As we continue to prepare and move into the second wave, it is apparent to take the time to acknowledge the dedication and professionalism of the many ICPs across Canada. Take a moment or two and do just that!
Barbara Catt RN BScN MEd CIC is President of Infection Prevention and Control Canada (IPAC Canada) – www.ipac-canada.org