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COVID-19: what we know, and what we need to do

Dr Patricia Davidson sets out what we already know about the novel Coronavirus.
In this course dealing with COVID-19 in the context of a pandemic, we’re asking many questions– what we already know about the novel coronavirus, what we need to know, and currently what we need to do. Coronavirus is one in a history of notable pandemics. But for our generation, it’s the first time we’ve seen a pandemic such magnitude and proportion. And this pandemic has propelled us into unprecedented times. And much of work that we do has changed and the future is unpredictable. So here is an image of the novel coronavirus. As you can see, this is an image that you’ve become probably quite accustomed to by now. The coronavirus viruses are not new. We’ve known about these since the mid-1960s.
And they are described for the crown-like spikes on their surfaces. And perhaps you have heard of the other commonly known coronavirus viruses, the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, MERS, and the severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS. Each of these coronaviruses has impacted the world in previous years. And we’ve learnt much about managing epidemics that have informed the work that we need to do within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 virus, as we know, is a virus that is a zoonotic virus. That means it’s transmitted from animal species to the human species.
And this is one of the increasing numbers of viruses around the world that have evolved particularly due to a range of changes in the way we live and work.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of data. So in this course, we will be frequently referring you back to the Johns Hopkins map. As you can see here, this map, started by our colleague Professor Lauren Gardner, provides a real-time snapshot of where things are in the world in terms of the number of cases and the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We’ll also see in this course that it’s not just about thinking about the numbers of cases. It’s about how robust and how able is the local health care system able to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. And you see here, this is looking at data from Los Angeles.
The Johns Hopkins University map has also been able to generate data specific to the local government or county area in the United States. This granularity helps people in decision making. Because it’s really important that systems just don’t know the number of cases but make sure that the system is able to respond to the COVID-19 virus. And we know in the United States if we’re looking at the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic, as you can see here, these are data from this week that shows the size of the COVID-19 pandemic in comparison to others. And we know that this is going to have a devastating impact on our society for a very, very long time.
And as you can see here, this is where the disability and death is from COVID-19 compared to other important causes of death, namely cancer and cardiovascular disease. So testing for COVID-19 is really important. And you will see from the resources that we’ve given you that there’s much information about the role of testing and contact tracing. There’s two main types of testing. One it’s a swab test that can take a sample from the throat or nose or other mucous membranes. And then there is other blood tests which really look at the exposure to COVID-19, or therefore antibodies. Around the world people have been rallying to see how we can screen and test as many people as possible.
We know for the COVID-19 virus that the mean incubation time is four to five days. And we know it will cause a wide spectrum of disease from mild illness through to critical illness. And we know that the majority of people will have a mild to moderate illness. But for those who are unfortunate enough to suffer severe or critical illness, they will find themselves in hospitals and in the intensive care unit. We know that older individuals are more vulnerable. But each day, we learn more about the COVID-19 virus and particular populations that are vulnerable to this condition. We know that these are the symptoms that we know to date.
This list, as we understand more about the disease and its presentation, it’s still more likely that its list of virus symptoms will continue to grow. There are some really innovative and exciting steps. We know that remdesivir has been preliminarily investigated as being a promising antiviral drug. We know that people are looking at transfusing antibodies from people infected with the condition that have recovered into individuals who have currently the virus. And also, we all wait and watch with great anticipation and really a lot of hope in a vaccine that will allow us to resume the world as we knew it. So we know a lot more about the COVID-19 virus. But there’s a lot we still don’t know.
So in order to manage this virus and the pandemic, we need to continue to practise safe social distancing. We need to recognise risk factors in vulnerable populations, particularly those with respiratory and cardiovascular disease. We have to diligently hand wash. We have to clean surfaces. And we have need to look after our own health. So in this course, we’re really going to focus on some key issues that are going to help you as a nurse adapt to the COVID-19 situation and really use your nursing skills to the greatest height to be able to address this COVID-19 pandemic.

In this short presentation, lead educator Dr Patricia Davidson sets out what we already know about the novel coronavirus, and provides insight into what we need to know and what we need to do to combat the pandemic.

She also sets out some key issues facing nurses today as they adapt to the COVID-19 crisis and outlines how nurses might use their skills to be able to address its many challenges.

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COVID-19: Effective Nursing in Times of Crisis

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