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Stanford Hospital prepares for coronavirus

Infectious disease doctors say the virus is unlikely to reach Stanford, but they are prepared to treat it if necessary

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Stanford Hospital is preparing to treat potential coronavirus cases by setting up isolation areas and educating employees about safety precautions.

As one of the Bay Area’s largest medical centers, Stanford Hospital must be ready to address the outbreak, doctors say, but they remain optimistic that the virus will be contained.

“We’ve been preparing, and we’ve been through this drill before,” said Lucy Tompkins, the medical director of Infection Prevention and Control for Stanford Health Care. 

Tompkins said Stanford Hospital’s approach to the new coronavirus is based on protocols created during the severe acute respiratory symptom (SARS) outbreak in the early 2000s.

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China and has spread to other Asian countries, as well as to Europe, Australia and the United States. Over 28,000 coronavirus cases have been identified, the vast majority of which are in mainland China. Two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Santa Clara County, out of 12 total people infected in the United States. 

Santa Clara County Public Health Department spokesperson Marianna Moles wrote in a statement to The Daily that she could not comment on whether any coronavirus patients have visited Stanford Hospital for testing or treatment due to medical privacy concerns.

Signage in the hospital warns about the virus: “If you have been in Wuhan City, China within the past 14 days and have had a fever, cough, or have difficulty breathing, please let the security officer know,” reads a sign by the check-in window for pediatric emergency. 

Tompkins said that if a patient had just returned from Wuhan City and exhibited symptoms, a nurse wearing protective equipment would escort the person to a special room designed to contain the virus.

A person with coronavirus-like symptoms, however, should check in with their primary care doctor before going to the hospital, Tompkins said.

Doctors receive frequent updates about the status of the coronavirus from Stanford, the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said Aruna Subramanian, an infectious disease doctor at Stanford Hospital.

“There are algorithms sent out, including for security, the triage nurses, the front desk staff, the clinic nurses — everybody is included in this kind of education,” Subramanian said. “We all are up to date.”

The risk of Stanford students and staff contracting coronavirus remains low, Stanford Health Care officials say. On Tuesday, the University announced that it is restricting all travel to China. Stanford has also asked any community members who have returned from mainland China in the past 14 days to self-isolate for 14 days.

“I think healthy college students really should be more concerned about the flu and getting the flu shot,” Subramanian said.

Tompkins said Stanford students and staff should follow standard precautions like proper hand-washing and staying home if they feel sick as protection against both coronavirus and the flu.

“We’re still in the upswing of the flu season, and this is a dangerous virus,” Tompkins said. “People are much more likely to get the flu right now.”

Contact Jasmine Kerber at jkerber ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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