Molecular model of COVI-19 virus

Abs 2019-nCoV RNA virus - 3d rendered image on black background.

Coronavirus and How Pharmacists Can Help

COVID-19 or Coronavirus has been continuously spreading across the globe and earlier this week the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a pandemic. With the widespread panic that is happening across the United States, pharmacists, one of the most accessible healthcare professionals, can expect more and more people to come to them with questions and seeking guidance.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 1,215 total cases and 36 deaths in the U.S. as of March 12, 2020. With the numbers expected to increase, what can pharmacists do to alleviate worries that patients might have?

Provide tips on how to prevent illness

One of the most frequently asked questions people might ask are, “How can I keep my family safe from getting sick?” While the answer may be common sense and already known, having a healthcare professional reminding you to do the simple things can be reassuring.

According to the CDC, pharmacists should remind patients to:

  • Keep a safe distance from others, as the best way to prevent contracting the virus is not coming into contact with the virus.
  • Wash and clean hands often. Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If using hand sanitizer, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Stay home if you are sick – except to visit a medical provider.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
Educate patients on the difference between the flu and coronavirus

Knowing the difference between the flu and coronavirus is essential at this time, especially to provide relief to worrying patients. Both have similar symptoms including fever, body aches, fatigue, cough, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. A patient should be tested for coronavirus if they have been traveling or have been in close proximity or physical contact with someone who has traveled, in addition to showing symptoms.

In an article by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), Pharmacy Today sat down with virus expert Timothy Sheahan and got his take on the differences and similarities between the two.

“They’re both respiratory viruses, so they’re transmitted primarily by the respiratory route—coughing and sneezing and contact with respiratory secretions,” Sheahan said. “Flu and coronavirus both have RNA for their genetic material. The virus particle itself can be made up of different things or in a different style, and both influenza and coronavirus are enveloped viruses. That means that as they’re leaving the cell in which they’re made, they take a part of the membrane of the cell that they’re growing in with them.”

Since coronavirus is an enveloped virus, Sheahan says that disinfectants would be the best line of defense.

“Usually, enveloped viruses are less stable in the environment, and they’re susceptible to alcohol disinfectants and stuff like that, whereas with some of the tougher viruses, you really need bleach to kill them. So, handwashing with soap and water and alcohol-based hand sanitizers should be effective against the new coronavirus. Normal household cleaners like soap and water, alcohol-based cleaners or bleach-containing disinfectants should be sufficient to clean surfaces and objects in the home.”

Read the full interview here.

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