Members Update: Coronavirus

Dear ACCA Members and Industry Collegues

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that the Coronavirus epidemic in China now constitutes a public health emergency of international concern. Presently the disease has killed more than 400 people in China, with approximately 20,645 cases confirmed by world-wide health authorities. There are 13 confirmed cases in Australia – 4 in Victoria, 4 in NSW, 3 in Queensland and 2 in South Australia.

 

The Australian Government is taking a highly precautionary approach based on the latest and best medical advice.

 

The attached link provides an up to date summary of the important details of the virus, as per the Australian Government Health Department https://www.health.gov.au/news/coronavirus-update-at-a-glance

 

It is paramount that all ACCA Members operating Cemeteries and Crematoria take all practical and possible measures to protect yourselves, your staff and your client families.

 

ACCA also maintains close relationships with our national Funeral Director association colleagues, such as the AFDA and the NFDA, as well as other state-based funeral director associations. At times like this, it is wise to collaborate and communicate with each other to share common solutions and advice we receive that may impact any and all parts of our respective sectors.

 

On this occasion I am pleased to be able to share with ACCA members, an email from the Australian Funeral Directors Association (AFDA) regarding their advice to members sent out recently (last Friday 31st Jan).

Thank you to the AFDA for allowing us to share this information. I am sure that many ACCA Members will be grateful of knowing the information and messages being communicated to their Funeral Director colleagues in their regions.

 

As always, stay in contact with your local Health Department Authorities for the latest advice and recommendations.

 

Regards

Chris Harrington

Chief Executive Officer

Australasian Cemeteries & Crematoria Association (ACCA)

p: 03 9863 6913

m: 0488 636 008

e: chris@accaweb.com.au

Meeting with Families

We urge members to take all necessary precautions to protect their frontline staff, in particular those making arrangements for families who may have had contact with Coronavirus and/or handling deceased persons.

We suggest that funeral directors and staff should wear protective masks. There are two main types of face masks that are being used. One is a standard surgical mask – the kind worn by surgeons during operations. These masks are designed to block liquid droplets and might lower the chance of catching the virus from another person, but these masks don’t offer full protection against airborne viruses.

 

For full protection, we recommend the use of disposable P2/N95 face masks (also known as P2/N95 respirators) as they are able to filter out very fine particles from the air when worn correctly. Masks can be purchased from AFDA suppliers such as Hyqual Australia, Hickey & Co, Final Touch and Mazwell Australia Pty Ltd. However stock levels may be low due to demand.

 

The Australian Institute of Embalmers and the New Zealand Embalmers Association recommend that the deceased should be refrigerated for 24 hours for a non-autopsied case, and 48 hours for an autopsied case, to offer extra assurance to the funeral personnel handling the deceased prior to any preparation of the body taking place. We cannot underestimate the need to exercise caution and to use appropriate PPE for all those involved in handling such cases.  

 

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some cause illness in humans, and others cause illness in animals, such as bats, camels, and civets. Human Coronaviruses cause mild illness, such as the common cold. Rarely, animal Coronaviruses can evolve to infect and spread among humans, causing severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which emerged in 2002, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) which emerged in 2012.

 

In 2019 a new Coronavirus emerged affecting people who have recently been in the city of Wuhan, China called ‘novel Coronavirus 2019’ or ‘2019-nCoV’.

Symptoms of Novel Coronavirus

The virus can cause a range of symptoms. Symptoms can range from mild illness to pneumonia. Affected people may experience:

  • Fever;

  • Flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and headaches;

  • Difficulty breathing.

 

Who is at Risk?

People who are living, or travelling to affected areas or who have had contact with other cases may be at risk of catching the disease. People with underlying illnesses that make them more vulnerable to respiratory disease, including those with diabetes, chronic lung disease, pre-existing kidney failure, people with suppressed immune systems and the elderly may be at a higher risk.

 

What is the Government doing to Control the Spread?

The Australian Department of Health said in a statement it was aware of the outbreak and was watching developments closely, but there was no need for alarm in Australia.

 

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says Australia has well-established procedures to ensure people with illnesses travelling into the country are detected at the border. Airlines are already required to report passengers who show signs of infectious disease, including fever, sweats or chills, so sick travellers can be met by biosecurity officers when they arrive in Australia to be assessed.

 

What is the Public Health Response?

As of 23 January 2020, in Australia procedures to prevent the local spread of 2019-nCoV have been put in place in all states. Public health unit staff will investigate all cases to find out how the infection occurred, identify other people at risk of infection, implement control measures and provide other advice.

Where can I find More Information?

 

For all other information visit the Australian Government Health website https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov

 

 

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