How to care for a person potentially infected with COVID-19? Here are experts’ advice

MANILA, Philippines – Have you been exposed to a person in your workplace or has a family member recently met someone who later tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?

What should you do?

Health authorities have reiterated that a person who potentially contracted coronavirus after exposure to an infected patient should undergo a home quarantine to monitor symptoms and avoid spreading the disease.

What is quarantine?

The World Health Organization (WHO), in its interim guidance on the COVID-19 outbreak dated March 19, defines quarantine as the restriction of activities or separation of individuals who are not ill but may have been exposed to the virus, to monitor symptoms, and ensuring early detection of cases.

The WHO stressed that quarantine is different from isolation, which is the separation of ill or infected persons from others to prevent contamination.

Who should undergo a quarantine?

Based on the Department of Health (DOH) interim guidelines, those who do not exhibit any symptoms, has history of travel to China, and/or has exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days should undergo home quarantine.

Those who had no travel history, but had a contact with or provided direct care for a confirmed COVID-19 patient and manifested symptoms of respiratory illness are also advised to undergo home quarantine.

A person undergoing home quarantine are not allowed to leave their rooms until they have completed the 14-day requirement.

How do you avoid the risk of infection while living and caring for a potentially COVID-19 patient?

  • Provide a room for the person being monitored.

The DOH said the room should be adequately ventilated and spacious, preferably with toilet and bathroom. If this is not available, beds should be placed at least one meter apart.

  • Minimize direct interaction with the person being monitored.

A person, who is in good health, should be assigned as caretaker. No one apart from the caregiver will be allowed to visit the person being quarantined.

When serving meals, put the plates or meal trays only up to the room door. This should also be collected from the door. Eating utensils, dishes, and cups or drinking glass used by the person under quarantine should be separated.

  • Avoid contact with the person’s body fluids.

Caregivers should employ proper waste management when caring for a person under monitoring such as use of disposable gloves when handling oral or respiratory secretions, urine and feces. Wash hands thoroughly before putting on and after removing gloves.

  • Avoid exposure to things used by the person being quarantined.

Touching of toothbrush, towels, washcloths, bed linens and clothes used by the person being monitored should be avoided.

Disposable masks, tissues and other materials used by the person should be discarded immediately in a separate container, while reusable things like towels, and bed linens should be washed using water and regular laundry soap or machine wash at 60-90 °C (140-194 °F) with common laundry detergent and dry thoroughly.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

Bedside tables, bed frames and other bedroom furniture, and doorknobs should be cleaned and disinfected daily with regular household disinfectant containing a diluted bleach solution (that is, 1-part bleach to 99 parts water). For surfaces that cannot be cleaned with bleach, use 70% ethanol.

  • Observe proper hygiene.

Every member of the household should strictly observe proper hygiene if they are living or caring with a person potentially infected with coronavirus. Wash hands frequently using soap and water. They may also use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after contact with immediate environment.

  • Persons under quarantine should use a face mask when interacting with others

This is to protect other people from getting the virus.

The DOH also stressed that the use of face mask is not required for persons with no symptoms of the person being monitored is interacting with.

Masks should not be touched or handled during use. If it gets wet or dirty with secretions, it must be changed immediately and disposed properly. Discard the used disposable mask after a maximum use of 8 hours. Wash hands using water and soap or alcohol-based sanitizer after removal of mask.

  • Provide access to the internet and entertainment.

Persons under quarantine must be able to talk with family members outside their room through phones or other means of communication. Access to the internet, information and other forms of entertainment should also be provided.

If the person being monitored has developed coronavirus symptoms, such as fever, dry cough, tiredness, immediately consult a physician at a nearest health facility or call DOH COVID-19 hotlines at 02-894-COVID (02-894-26843) and 1555. His/her household members are also advised to seek medical care when symptoms developed.

If the person under quarantine has not exhibited symptoms after the 14-day requirement, they are free to go out and resume their activities after they have been certified by a local health official to have finished the quarantine period.

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