Americans are understandably on edge right now. Media attention has brought the latest novel coronavirus, COVID-19–the latest in an ever-evolving strain of novel coronavirus–into the consciousness of people around the world, in large part because many countries were unprepared to deal with it.
The reality is that the field of modern dentistry in general is very well-prepared to handle the pandemic. Our practice remains committed to maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness and sterilization as recommended by the American Dental Association. We continue to follow these standards in order to prevent the spread of all viruses and germs during cold and flu season to ensure a healthy environment for all our patients and team members. Our primary concern is the health and safety of our patients and team members.
The CDC notes that the dental community is doing a very good job of protecting patients via state-of-the-art infection control practices. The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, gloves, protective eyewear, and gowns has led to better protection for our staff and patients. Our use of disinfectants, up-to-date sterilization practices, dedicated hand washing, and one-time-use disposable materials also have all helped facilitate safe dental visits for our patients for years. All of these practices have been the backbone of the CDC’s Standard Precautions.
So where do coronaviruses usually come from?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronaviruses usually come from animal sources such as bats and camels. Sometimes these coronaviruses cross from animals to humans, such as with the 2002 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Coronavirus and the 2012 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Coronavirus, as well as the new 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
What more can we learn about COVID-19 and its symptoms?
The CDC states that symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms can appear two to 14 days after exposure. The current transmission of COVID-19 seems to be from ill people to those around them. The apparent spread of the virus is by respiratory droplets produced by sick people when they cough or sneeze.
Because the timing of this outbreak matches the seasonal flu, people can and have presented with the same symptoms, a certain confounder in proper diagnosis. Fortunately, the properly performed Standard Precautions are effective against such viruses. There are three keys can help clinicians preliminarily differentiate whether a patient has COVID-19 and not the flu:
- A history of travel from Wuhan City, China, in the last 14 days before symptom onset.
- Close contact with a person who is under investigation for COVID-19 while that person was ill in the last 14 days before symptom onset.
- Close contact with an ill laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient in the last 14 days.
What are we doing to continue protecting our patients and our employees from COVID-19?
The CDC has recommendations for the general public, such as:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. (These recommendations already are part of our Standard Precautions.)
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash, and then wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
***Visit the CDC’s website for the latest information on COVID-19.***
It’s important to remember that we always do everything possible to ensure our patients’ well-being, and that it remains our number-one priority. Our use of Standard Precautions keeps everyone safe and they are a routine part of our practice and in compliance with CDC guidelines.