Ben Locwin chats with Tom Fox about COVID-19 and the risk management issues associated with the disease in this week’s Innovation In Compliance show. 

What is Coronavirus?

Ben says that coronaviruses have been around for a long time. During flu season, about 10% of patients with upper respiratory symptoms test positive for a type of coronavirus. The epicenter of the outbreak of this particular strain of the coronavirus is Wuhan, China, and there seems to be some correlation with the open air markets there. Though it’s suspected that the virus may have crossed from animals to humans, the nexus of the disease is unknown. He goes on to explain how the virus got its name and how it affects human cells.

Symptoms and Spread

Tom asks about the symptoms of the coronavirus (officially called COVID-19) and how it spreads. Symptoms, Ben says, include respiratory symptoms similar to a chest cold, such as coughing, having trouble breathing, and fever in more severe cases. In a relatively few cases, patients experience organ failure and septic shock and other serious issues, including death. Ben explains that this particular coronavirus spreads through aerosolized droplet infection: when an infected person coughs or sneezes in a public place, fine particulates of saliva and mucus are introduced into the air. Anyone there can inhale these particles and contract the disease. They can start experiencing symptoms within 2 to 14 days.

Common Sense Prevention

Ben comments on the stigma associated with COVID-19. While travel restrictions and other such responses make good sense, he points out that the outbreak of the virus is not yet a pandemic. If you’re experiencing upper respiratory symptoms, see your healthcare provider right away to have a test done. Your sample will be sent to the CDC for testing to determine if you have COVID-19. He advocates common sense prevention measures, the most important of which is hand hygiene: wash your hands regularly. When you’re in a public place try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth and don’t touch food without washing your hands first. Face masks may also be useful. If you feel ill, stay at home, he advises.

Smart Risk Management Practices

Tom comments that many businesses are struggling with how to manage the risk associated with the disease. He asks Ben to give some advice in this regard. Ben responds that companies should take a smart approach. While you shouldn’t start panic buying and selling, and cease all travel, you should certainly limit non-essential travel whenever possible. “That’s just essentially limiting our exposure to risk,” he says. Tom adds that there are a number of modern communication tools that can be used instead of traveling to meetings. It’s sad that it takes situations like this to force companies to examine their business operations, Ben comments. However, by cutting out non-critical practices, businesses not only limit their risk exposure, but it also allows them to employ operational excellence.