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Published on March 10, 2020

Specialist keeps CCHC staff up to date on coronavirus

CCHC Staff Informed

About 100 Cape Cod Healthcare employees gathered in a conference room recently to get the latest information on coronavirus from David J. Pombo, MD, the medical director of infection prevention at Cape Cod Healthcare.

An infectious disease specialist, Dr. Pombo led a medical grand rounds in an evening session at Cape Cod Hospital on March 4. The audience included physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers. Staff members at Falmouth Hospital took part by video conference.

One of the key takeaways was that information and guidelines about the disease are changing day to day, so it’s important for providers and the public to get updates from reliable sources on a regular basis.

Dr. Pombo started with a brief history of the epidemiology, pathogenesis and clinical course of coronaviruses in general, the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the currently circulating coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19.

Because the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in December 2019, much about the illness is still unknown, including whether it will be similar to influenza in peaking in winter months and having a very low incidence during the summer.

A breakdown of the first 72,000 cases in China found that 87 percent of the cases affected people aged 30 to 79. The rest of the cases were in those 20-29 (8 percent), over 80 (3 percent), 10-19 (1 percent) and younger than 10 (1 percent). The reasons why it hits some age ranges much harder are still being investigated, Dr. Pombo reported.

The chief symptoms are coughing (67.8 percent) and fever (43.8 percent on admission and 88.7 percent during hospitalization).

The spread of the disease is thought to occur mainly from person to person via respiratory droplets among close contacts, he said.

Dr. Pombo cited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the best source of accurate and reliable information and pointed to the agency’s guidelines for prevention and treatment, especially washing hands frequently, covering coughs and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

The emergency departments at Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital have a checklist for diagnosing patients with respiratory difficulties in order to quickly isolate any patients who are possibly infected, he said. State labs have an adequate supply of testing equipment from the CDC to quickly evaluate patient swab samples.

Dr. Pombo recommended the CDC coronavirus web site for further information. It includes information aimed at healthcare professionals, health departments, travelers and communities, schools and businesses.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is also providing regular updates.