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Coronavirus Texas case confirmed in San Antonio

Friday, February 14, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Thomas Licker
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Opinion -

Novel Corona Virus or Covid-19 as it is now known has started to move in to North America. We have a new positive case at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. People are being evacuated from China and are currently being sent to designated quarantine facilities on military bases throughout North America.  Quarantine is often used as a means when such an event happens where the epidemiology supports a high level of infectability from direct contact between humans or humans and animals.  This is why quarantine is set up during such events. The enveloped virus does not generally survive very long without a host. If you quarantine to limit its ability to host, you gain control and community immunity is built. You just hope people do build immunity or a vaccine becomes available.  The real opportunity or exposure risk remains with those who are in direct contact with people or body fluids with significant viral loads. Remember it only took 1 viral particle of Ebola to cause an active infection.  The highest exposure risk is primarily in Biological Containment wards where they have symptomatic patients in isolation.  The other would primarily be in Quarantine operations themselves.  This where ABRA member companies can offer services and boots on the ground to assist in containing body fluids and management of waste streams.      

The psychological impact to the global community is a huge hot button for marketing opportunities and a wave of misinformation.  There is a good article in the NY Times that describes this to a T.   The article quotes " Alarming, but a much more common illness, influenza, kills about 400,000 people every year, including 34,200 Americans last flu season and 61,099 the year before."  The issue is that there are till a lot of unknowns regarding the virulence of this particular coronavirus.  

I have witnessed so much advertisement and marketing to capitalize on this that it is borderline ridiculousness.  There is plenty of guidance documents on proper cleaning out there to educate your staff on.  Have a look at the ABRA Guidlines and Standards web page for Educational Links.  Use the BSRA Guidelines as a basis of project risk evaluation.  Many people will call you to disinfect for purposes of mitigation of public perception yet clinically your actions may have little impact on respiratory virus outbreak that primarily supports human to human transfer.  

There are interesting studies on a wide variety of enveloped viruses and their their overall infectability from environmental surfaces. The environmental significance of such viruses remains low as virulence and viral load generally drops dramatically once it is in the environment outside of body fluids. Watching TV, I see response teams spraying down people getting off of airplanes with electrostatic sprayers and the Chinese government fogging god knows what into the air and people are breathing the fumigant. This may irritate the lungs causing increased susceptibility to the virus and may be doing more harm than good. It is better to be safe than sorry and treat it as guilty until proven innocent by science. Proper Cleaning and then Disinfection on high traffic touch points will only be as good as the next asymptomatic or symptomatic person cross-contaminates it again. This is again why we quarantine.  Here is a good article on the environmental significance of enveloped viruses published form pbs that describes this well.  So stay diligent and educated during events like these.   If you are in a position or opportunity to respond to such emergency actions, mitigate according to the EPA label of the registered virucide you are employing.  Please be aware of the OSHA training requirements.  For those of us in the United States, have a look at the definitions in the HAZWOPER and Bloodborne Pathogen standard that apply to biological response. You may have exposure as an employer here.  Stay safe out there folks. Wash your hands!

Thomas Licker, CEICR, CBRM


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