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BC Coronavirus Protocol

I am writing to share what I have discovered about Coronavirus protocol in BC. One of the things about the Corona virus situation is that there is very little information about what we should actually do if we come down with flu like symptoms. Do we immediately go to our doctor, is there a testing facility that we should go to, do our kids and/or spouse have to stay home from work. I found the available information vague and sometimes confusing. Click here for a link to Healthlink BC for their information web page.

Here is a summary of what I found out:

  1. Self monitor for symptoms
  2. If you have a fever, cough and/or difficulty breathing immediately isolate yourself
    • Isolate yourself means
      • Stay home
      • Avoid those who have chronic conditions, compromised immune systems and older adults
      • Avoid having visitors to your home
      • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds
      • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm when coughing or sneezing
    • Comment: They also say on the website that “If you have had contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 and have received instructions from public health, you should also self-isolate”.
    • Question: What does a person do if they are in contact with someone who has the symptoms but has not been diagnosed. There is no guidance provided on this one.
  3. Immediately call a health care professional, or the BC public health authority at 8-1-1
    1. Comments
      • The problem here is that your doctor may not be able to test you because they don’t have test kits or the right protocols in place to prevent the spread to other patients. Call ahead as they may in fact decline to see you.
      • If you call 8-1-1 you will speak to someone who will ask you a few question and take your personal information including Care Card number. You will then be transferred to a healthcare nurse who will determine if you should be tested. Note: I was informed that the wait times to speak to a nurse is 1.5 hours.
      • If you manage to get through to a nurse they will ask you questions to determined if you should be tested.
      • If they recommend that you should get tested they will then tell you to “call around” to find a healthcare provider, clinic or public health facility that has a test kit available and is willing to see you, they cannot tell you who or where that might be available.
  4. Wear a mask to avoid infecting others when going out in public, to the doctor or for testing.

According to Vancouver Coastal Health Authority’s February 26 Physician’s Update, “Any physician in VCH can order a test for COVID-19, based on your (the doctor’s) clinical assessment. However, we (VCH Public Health) will follow up any positive results and are available for consultation, if needed. If you (the doctor) decides to test, please advise the patient to self-isolate until they receive a negative test result (See patient handout below). For up to date stats and information about COVID-19 go Vancouver Coastal Heath Authority information site here.

For all patients tested they will be offered a surgical mask and placed in a separate room for testing. After testing, if you are well enough to return home, you will be discharged with a surgical mask and advised to isolate yourself at home until you receive your test result. If the results are positive, VCH Public Health will be notified immediately and will follow up with you directly and any contacts.

Here are BC CDC’s instructions for self-isolation:

Your doctor has determined that you can safely be cared for at home. To prevent the spread of contagious respiratory illnesses including novel coronavirus, we advise that you self-isolate at home until your test results are complete. Your coronavirus test results will be available within the next 2-3 days. You may call the BC Centre for Disease Control Results Hotline for your test results at 1-833-707-2792 (Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm)

Instructions for self-Isolation:

  1. Stay home while you are sick – Just as when you have the flu, you should stay home when you are sick. Do not go to work, or school. Cancel non-urgent appointments. However, you can still leave home for essential purchases, such as getting groceries. If you do go out while you are still sick, it is best if you wear a mask (see point #2 below). Your doctor may provide you with a note excusing you from work or school.
  2. Wear a face mask – Wear a face mask when you are in the same room with other people and when you visit a health care facility. If your mask gets wet or dirty, change it. Please note: A face mask refers to a surgical/procedure mask. N95 respirator masks are not required by the patient or household contacts.
  3. Separate yourself from other people in your home – Stay and sleep in a well-ventilated room separate from other people. Use a separate bathroom if available. Use a face mask in shared spaces. Household members should stay in another home or place of residence if possible. Restrict visitors. However, it is ok to have friends/family drop off food or you can use delivery/pick up services for errands such as grocery shopping.
  4. Do not prepare food for others in your household
  5. Avoid sharing household items – Do not share dishes, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding, or other items with people in your home. After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water.
  6. Cover your coughs and sneezes – Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough/sneeze, or cough/sneeze into your sleeve instead of your hand. Throw used tissues into a lined trash can in your room before disposal with other household waste. Immediately wash your hands.
  7. Wash your hands – Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use disposable paper towels when possible. For more information on hand washing go here . If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based sanitizer, however, always wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  8. Flush toilet with the lid down – the virus may also be present in stool.
  9. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces – Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g. counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables) once per day with regular household disinfectant or a solution containing 1 part bleach to 9 parts water.
  10. Notify health care facilities before you visit – Call ahead before visiting a health care facility, and advise them that you have or are being tested for novel coronavirus. Also be sure to inform health care providers when you arrive. This will help health care facilities to take steps to keep other people from becoming infected.
  11. Monitor your symptoms – Seek medical attention if you have trouble breathing, are unable to tolerate fluids, or if your illness is worsening. Notify health care facilities and health care providers (e.g. emergency departments, ambulance paramedics, doctor’s offices) before you visit.

One current problem is the availability of test kits, there are very few of them available at this time and they are very hard to find. They consist of nasal and throat swabs (Nasopharyngeal Swab). Currently LifeLabs and other private testing facilities cannot test patients for coronavirus as they don’t have the swab kits nor do they have the appropriate laboratory facilities to complete diagnostic testing for coronavirus. On March 4th the government announced that “Soon, the provincial lab system will have the ability to test roughly 1,000 samples per day, and the turnaround time to get results has been cut from 24 hours to six”.  Health authorities are working to enabling some hospitals to diagnose patients. There is no information available, as of the time of writing this, that indicates that progress has been made towards achieving these goals.

I hope this information helps in understanding what to do if you are symptomatic.

For more information here is a link to the BC Health Ministry’s Healthlink Website: Click here

 

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