Many more people in Europe are likely to contract novel coronavirus that causes serious lung disease, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has warned.
Based on the information currently available the centre believes the potential impact of a coronavirus outbreak is “high”. However, if cases are detected in Europe quickly and rigorous infection prevention and control measures applied the likelihood of human-to-human transmission continuing is “low.”
The virus starts with a fever, followed by a dry cough and then, after a week, leads to shortness of breath with some patients needing hospital treatment. About one-in-four cases are thought to be severe.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation wants to know more about the preparations being made by the HSE. INMO general secretary, Phil ní Sheaghdha said they want to know about protective clothing, de-gowning procedures and the updating of guidelines and training.
She is reassured by the guidelines issued by the HSE on dealing with the virus but is worried that hospital beds are at 100% occupancy and intensive care beds are in constant demand. There are isolation cubicles in some of the country's newer emergency departments, she said, during an interview on RTÉ radio but they are constantly full.
Spokesman for the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, Fergal Hickey, says hospitals have very limited capacity to isolate people: “If the question you are asking me is are Ireland's 29 EDs adequately infrastructurally provided to achieve the level of isolation required, the simple answer is no, they are not. Some are. The majority are not."
HSE national director of national services, John Ryan, says isolation rooms can be made available should a case arise. The hospitals will have the capacity to deal with a patient who has the virus and where there might be large numbers with the disease, the hospitals will allocate wards, he said.
The department's chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, says there is a strategy to contain the virus. On RTÉ radio he said: "There are no certainties; we will prepare for the worst-case scenario and hope for the best."
Julie Galbraith, partner at the global law firm Eversheds Sutherland, says employers must carry out a risk assessment. They must also consider what special measures are available for vulnerable staff if the virus continues to spread. Employers should certainly review whether travel is necessary or if meetings could be conducted by video link.