Leading the Charge Against Coronavirus

Key Takeaways:

  1. Influenza, a viral infection, is easily transmitted and occasionally has no treatment.
  2. Coronavirus, often found in animals, has now become a human pandemic with no existing treatment.
  3. Leaders should understand the origin, preventive measures and symptoms of key respiratory infections to protect themselves, students, faculty and the university at large.

Leadership is essential when dealing with healthcare. It is important that, as leaders, we understand the actual and potential threats of infection to ourselves and those with whom we work.

We have all received encouragement to protect ourselves against influenza (the flu) through vaccination.  The flu, a contagious respiratory illness, is an airborne virus with the ability to rapidly reproduce. We also protect ourselves from the influenza virus through hand washing and personal protective measures — but what about other rapidly appearing viruses?

Let’s start by understanding what viruses are. First, they are very different from bacteria and therefore cannot be effectively treated with antibiotics. A virus is a microscopic organism containing genetic material and relying on its host’s cells to reproduce.  The ordinary cold is a caused by a virus as are the flu, warts, HIV and smallpox. United States researchers have developed vaccines to protect humans from many viruses — but there is one that has gone from bad to worse.

Historically, the 1918 flu epidemic pandemic (worldwide) involving the H1N1 influenza virus was the most severe in history.  This version of the flu lacked a vaccine and realistic treatment plan.  Caregivers could only recommend isolation, good personal hygiene limiting access to other individuals and using disinfectants.  The body’s immune system, weakened by the flu virus, becomes increasingly susceptible to bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, that attack the system — increasing the risk of mortality.

It is estimated that the 1918 flu pandemic killed nearly 50 million people worldwide (Letter carrier in New York wearing mask for protection against influenza. New York City, October 16, 1918.National Archives at College Park, MD. Record number 1655-11-269B-15).

Today we are facing another pandemic — coronavirus.

It is named for a family of viruses (coronaviruses) because of the spikes protruding from its exterior. It is often found in small animals but more recently noted to infect humans and causing other respiratory infectious diseases.  Coronaviruses are spread, in humans, the same way as the flu — a cough or sneeze or contact with saliva. The coronavirus outbreak was first seen in Wuhan, China, where it was reported that the virus was spread from animal to human in a fish market.  The result of the human contact rapidly increased due, in part, because Wuhan is a major travel hub with a high concentration of people, and the virus was not contained before being massively spread.  Scientists believe the coronavirus (2019-nCoV – meaning it is a novel virus) is not as deadly as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) but spreads more easily — making it more contagious.

The spread of the coronavirus has become a pandemic as it rapidly spreads across the globe.  The World Health Organization officially declared it a pandemic, encouraging all countries to develop prevention plans.  The map in figure X shows the almost immediate spread of the virus and, as of this publishing, it is expanding its threat to other additional countries.

As of this writing, statistics from Worldometer, a site monitoring the outbreak, indicates that nearly 382,000 cases have been identified with more than 16,000 deaths.  The rapid rise of infection from January to February has caused worldwide concern, noting the cancellation of international flights and businesses closing their doors.  The U.S. began evacuating American citizens from China and prohibiting the entry of individuals from that region.

Prevention begins with good personal hygiene like washing your hands often, covering your mouth (with your arm — not your hand) when you cough or sneeze, eating healthy foods and always being aware of your surroundings.  Individuals should understand that symptoms of the coronavirus may not appear immediately (up to two days) but can be as long as 14 days for those flu-like symptoms to appear, like fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Persons at higher risk are the young, the elderly and others whose immune systems may be challenged.  Leaders should consider encouraging the use of the preventive measures and suggesting that, if you are feeling ill, perhaps you should stay home.

Leaders have essential roles in managing crises such as an infectious pandemic.

Leading the challenge against respiratory infections is up to us all, but all leaders should be exemplars and encourage prevention. Leadership, in the face of a worldwide pandemic, is essential as we face viral infections at the rate and magnitude we have not seen in years.

National and international leadership is mandatory to control viral spread in an attempt to meet the flat line of infection.  University leadership is needed, such as that provided by The Ohio State University’s President Drake, in looking for and finding alternate methods of teaching our students.

University leaders are diligently working on how to manage students and faculty with alternate class types and innovative approaches to teaching and learning. And we, as family leaders, must understand the need for protection as we encourage family members to be judicious in their travels, maintain excellent hygiene to prevent infection through contact and caution in the face of early symptoms such as extreme lethargy, fever, chills, and cough.

Today, we are all leaders in a massive attempt to control the spread (flat line) coronavirus.

References

Key facts about influenza https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/keyfacts.htm

Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) situation reports - World Health Organization (WHO)

2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the U.S -. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

A novel coronavirus outbreak of global health concern - Chen Want et al. The Lancet. January 24, 2020

Symptoms of Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) - CDC

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.