The impact of coronavirus on dental practitioners: Protecting your patients, practice, and the public

February 13, 2020 -- The new strain of coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 has, at the time of writing, claimed more than 1,000 lives in the country and has caused an unprecedented lockdown in the province.1 When outbreaks such as coronavirus occur, it is easy to panic because of the hyped-up media coverage. However, it is essential to remember that contracting influenza is still a far greater risk to U.S. citizens, 10,000 of whom have died of the virus since October 2019.2As dental practitioners, it is pertinent that we stay vigilant to the hazard of cross infection, and do everything we can to protect our patients and ourselves.

Coronavirus versus influenza: What you need to know

The symptoms of coronavirus mimic those of the flu or a cold. The main symptoms patients experience are upper respiratory problems, fever, cough, and runny nose. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that anyone with these symptoms seek care early, paying particular attention to inform medical professionals if they have traveled in the two weeks prior or if they have been in contact with anyone with respiratory symptoms.

Amid the panic of the new coronavirus, which at the time of writing was not yet a pandemic, it is vital to remember some statistics. As previously stated, there have been thousands of flu deaths in the U.S. recently, and in 2018, 80,000 people in the U.S. died of influenza.2 Protecting our patients and colleagues is of paramount importance and even more so when new viruses emerge. The current crisis is a stark reminder that cross infection, when not kept in check, can rapidly escalate the spread of a virus.

What measures can dental practitioners take to prevent cross infection? Let's take a look.