The UK government has recently released a detailed guidance document for social and community care services in relation to the COVID-19 virus. COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan City, China, in January 2020. The virus has been hitting the headlines and causing global panic as it spreads around the world.
However, for the majority of people, symptoms are mild and full recovery is expected, as with most viruses. The guidance states that it is “very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected” due to the low rates of infection in the UK at present. This will be updated if the situation changes.
The infection can cause more severe symptoms in people who have weakened immune systems, older people and those with long-term conditions like diabetes or cancer. While a lot of the document is targeted towards care providers, issuing good practice advice for containing and preventing the spread of a virus, it can also be accessed by those who care for others at home or want advice for themselves.
Coronavirus is a type of virus, of which there are many variants – they are common around the world. COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus. The incubation period is between 2 and 14 days, so if you are in contact with someone who has the virus and you don’t fall ill within 2 weeks, it’s unlikely you have caught it.
If someone does catch the virus, in the first 14 days they may experience a cough, difficulty breathing and a fever. It’s thought to spread like other viruses, by close contact (within 2 metres) with an infected person. The risk increases the longer there is contact with an infected person.
The virus is transmitted through coughs and sneezes, and then inhaled by people in close proximity. It is also possible to be infected by touching a surface that has been in contact with an infected person, or shaking hands with someone who is infected, and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. It is thought that the virus cannot live for longer than 72 hours on a surface.
The guidance covers some of the basic common-sense precautions that we can all take, such as washing hands often with soap and water; using a tissue when coughing or sneezing and immediately binning the tissue; staying away from work when ill; cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly; and avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands. This is general advice that is common to all viruses and should be practised at all times, especially when in close contact with older or more vulnerable people.
There is also guidance on what to do if a carer, resident or service user becomes unwell and they have recently travelled back from an at-risk area, which includes isolation procedures. A call should be made to NHS 111 for advice. Any person who has returned from a Category 1 country should self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution, even if they have no symptoms.
The lengthy document also covers information on cleaning, rubbish disposal including tissues, and specific actions for social and community care staff visiting patients at home or providing care to residents.
You can read the full document here.
Of course, while there are differences between this new strain of coronavirus and the seasonal flu that we’re already used to dealing with, many of the basic precautions for preventing the spread of the virus are very similar.
We will be releasing a more detailed guide for paid carers on this topic soon for our Premium members. This will give easy-to-follow guidance for those working with vulnerable and elderly people both in their own homes and in a residential environment. Sign up for a subscription today to receive all of our in-depth articles and advice.