This page is intended to provide general information on the novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV. The CFNU will be updating this page with additional information as it becomes available. Guidelines for novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV, targeted at health care workers, are currently under development by the Public Health Agency of Canada as well as by provincial public health offices.
What is Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV?
According to the World Health Organization, a coronavirus belongs to a family of viruses causing illnesses ranging from the common cold to severe diseases, like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). A novel coronavirus is a strain previously unidentified in humans. Named 2019-nCoV, this respiratory disease was first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 before spreading to a number of Asian countries and Europe, Australia, the USA and Canada. There are now thousands of confirmed cases in mainland China and more than 100 dead. The incubation period for the new coronavirus is thought to be up to 14 days.
Have there been any confirmed cases in Canada?
As of January 28, 2020, one confirmed and one presumed case of the coronavirus have been identified in Toronto, Ontario. In both cases, the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV) is a respiratory infection. Symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat and headache. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How can I protect myself and my family?
General guidelines to protect yourself from infections include:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are ill.
- Staying home when you are ill.
- Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throwing the tissue in the garbage and washing your hands; if you don’t have a tissue, sneezing or coughing into your sleeve or arm.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
What is the CFNU doing?
The CFNU is closely monitoring this situation and has signalled to the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization that: 1) Guidelines being developed for 2019-nCoV must be done in conjunction with the voice of unionized nurses on the front line who are responsible for occupational health and safety (i.e. as worker representatives on workplace OH&S committees) as well as for direct patient care; 2) There is little information about the transmission and clinical severity of this novel coronavirus at this time; 3) Therefore, any guidelines being developed must be based on the precautionary principle, meaning ensuring the health and safety of nurses should not await scientific certainty about 2019-nCoV. Nurses can readily become vectors spreading the disease to each other and patients.
What can nurses do to take action on coronavirus at work?
- Comply with existing workplace infection control policies and procedures.
- Update your N-95 respirator fit testing and wear an N-95 respirator if there could be any risk of exposure to 2019-nCoV.
- Use required droplet, contact and additional airborne precautions such as (but not limited to): gloves, gowns, face shields, respirators, goggles, powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR) (for aerosol-generating procedures, e.g. intubation).
- STOP if you do not have the required personal protective equipment or properly fitted respiratory protection, and speak with your manager or supervisor; document the situation and copy your union and Joint OH&S Committee representative.
- REPORT any health and safety concerns, including gaps in adequate protocols and procedures and/or communications, training, access to PPE or other health and safety concerns to your manager or supervisor, copying your Joint OH&S Committee and your union.
Ensure your employer has:
- Consulted the Joint OH&S Committee on all measures, procedures and training with respect to 2019-nCoV.
- An adequate supply of appropriate N95 respirators on hand as well as PAPR (for aerosol-generating procedures, e.g. intubation).
- Conducted a risk assessment to determine all points of potential entry (and how to restrict them) and other points of potential exposure for workers (e.g. screening, triage, isolation rooms).
- In place relevant travel screening and worksite/unit exposure controls.
- In place suitable structural barriers (e.g., ceiling-to-floor plexiglas barriers at triage and registration).
- Completed respirator fit testing and training for all health care workers at risk.
- Dedicated teams of clinicians who are protected with and trained in the use of proper personal protective equipment for 2019-nCoV, including teams trained in the use of N-95 respirators and PAPR (for aerosol-generating procedures), who are ready to respond and care for both confirmed cases and individuals who may be under investigation.
- Airborne infection isolation rooms available.
Questions or concerns?
If you have any questions or concerns, please speak with your union or a member of your Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee.
For further information about the 2019 novel coronavirus:
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Ontario