A new strain of the Coronavirus has emerged from Wuhan, China and is spreading worldwide with over 2,000 confirmed cases & 50 deaths to date.Because this is a new strain, little is known on how contagious or effective control measures can be implemented to reduce the risk of the disease spreading. Whilst no confirmed cases are present in the UK, its important to ensure food businesses are ready to implement appropriate measures to reduce the potential outbreak on a local and natiotional level.
It is vitally important to monitor Staff health levels as the WN-COV strain has an incubation period of up to 5 days (infected Shows no symptoms during this period) but can still potentially cause infection to others. There is No Cure to the virus at this time. Remember, the more cases of infection results in greater chances of mutation & more servere symptoms as well as the risk of death in high risk groups.
WN-COV is known to cause the following symptoms in people and should be noted as areas to look out for in staff : Respiratory Infections – Cold, Runny nose, Sore throat. and in more servere cases Fever can also be present.
As you will notice, the Symptoms are similar to a normal Common Cold but is more deadly.
Handwashing in any food operation should be done as much as possible, both before and after each job. After having a break. After handling any sustance not safe to eat (chemicals, raw food, waste). After touching your face/head.
During the current situation, we need to be more cautious and ensure extra handwashing is taking place until further guidance is given by either the FSA or other Authority. NB: Do not replace handwashing with Alcoholic/ Antibacterial Gels. These gels are only for destroying Pathogenic bacteria and not Viruses. (for example: Typhoid & Norovirus are not killed by gels)
At this time it is unknown whether normal cooking processes kill WN-COV, but in the past with the ‘H5N1 virus’ has been known to provide extra controls and limit the spread of the Virus.
Its best to continue to cook food thoroughly aiming for a core temperature of 75’C. Extra care should be taken with meat & poulty.
Illness in the workplace:
Regardless of whether its a suspected virus or a common cold, staff should not be working whilst they are Ill. This cannot only risk further infection and illness, but increase the likelyhood of a local outbreak of the illness risking lives and potentially damaging the businesses reputation if found to be a source of an outbreak.
Any staff showing symptoms stated above should be sent home to rest and a instruct them to visit their Doctor/GP as soon as possible and relay any results back to you.
Visitors/Employees returning to work after holidays:
As most of you will know, i recommend implementing a ‘Visitors Policy’ and a completion of a return to work/Visitor form. Any staff that have been on holiday should complete one of these as well as any visitors who require access to the kitchen environment.
If any visitors or staff have recently visited any areas known to have confirmed cases of the WN-COV virus should be instructed to consult with a Doctor/GP before returning to work even in no symptoms are present.
Some of you may find this email & guidance a tad bit overboard in the current situation. But i hope you understand the importance of ensuring precautions are in place as this is not only a new strain of Virus that has no cure, it is also easily mistakable for a common cold bug which makes it more complicated to manage and identify.
Most of you will remember the ‘SARS-COV-2003’ virus that killed just under 800 people and infected thousands. This Virus was not cured but was simply contained effectively.
I encourage everyone to forward this around to other businesses and Safety Consultants (Put your own image on it if you wish) and also ensure staff are trained on both the importance of not working whilst Ill, but also in the importance of effective thorough handwashing.