COVID-19 – Advice for airport ground personnel
SARS-CoV-2 was first identified in the area of Wuhan, China in December 2019 and has since spread in many countries around the world. It is a new strain of coronavirus that had never, until then, been identified in humans. It causes a respiratory infection called COVID-19.
How is the virus transmitted?
The virus is transmitted from human to human mostly through respiratory droplets from sneezing, coughing or talking. It can also be transmitted through recently contaminated surfaces, if measures of hand hygiene are not used.
When is a case considered more contagious?
A case is considered more contagious if the patient develops symptoms; however, a patient can potentially transmit the infection even 1-4 days before developing symptoms himself. The main period of transmission is during the symptomatic phase. A case is considered as non-contagious 24 hours after symptoms subside.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19 infection?
The main symptoms of the disease are fever, dry cough and fatigue. Some people may also develop sore throat, joint/ muscle pain and nasal congestion. Symptoms are usually mild and approximately 80% of patients recover without need for treatment.
Which patients are considered to be more at risk of developing a severe condition?
Some patients develop dyspnea (difficulty breathing) and possibly, pneumonia that has to be treated in hospital. People in high-risk groups (e.g. elders, patients with heart conditions, diabetes mellitus, liver or lung conditions) are more likely to develop severe symptoms of the disease.
Education and raising awareness among airport ground personnel
Raising awareness for detection of cases
- The airport health authority should be informed and updated about the outbreak of COVID-19. Moreover, the airport health authority should provide training and guidance to their personnel for recognition of the signs and symptoms of acute respiratory infection (ARI): fever and sudden onset of respiratory infection with one or more of the following symptoms: shortness of breath or cough.
- Personnel should be trained on the procedures to be followed when a traveller displays signs and symptoms indicative of ARI, for providing assistance and on the proper selection and use of PPE.
- Personnel should be trained to recognise symptoms, to provide assistance and to inform the airport health authority.
- Information about symptoms, prevention measures and what to do when symptomatic should be displayed in the airport.
How can the risk of transmitting COVID-19 infection be reduced at airports?
- Before departure: Information campaigns to raise awareness among passengers and personnel regarding symptoms of COVID-19 and hygiene practices.
- Before embarkation: Informative materials regarding symptoms of COVID-19 and hygiene practices (leaflets, banners, posters, electronic slides, public announcements etc.) can be prepared and distributed to passengers and personnel.
- During travel: Information about symptoms, personal protective measures and promptly seeking medical advice if relevant symptoms develop should be distributed to passengers and personnel.
General measures for prevention of infection transmission
All airport areas must be well ventilated while access to running water and soap must be available to allow for good hygiene practice.
- The first line of defense against infections is good hygiene practice. You are advised to wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If your hands are not dirty, you may use a disinfectant instead (e.g. 70 % alcohol solution). Use of gloves should not replace hand washing.
- Good hygiene practice involves:
- covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes with your hands to prevent bacterial spread
- Avoid coming in close contact (1 – 2 meters distance) with patients who show respiratory symptoms.
What is the definition of close contact?
Close contact of a probable or confirmed case is defined as:
- A person living in the same household as a COVID-19 case;
- A person having had direct physical contact with a COVID-19 case (e.g. shaking hands);
- A person having unprotected direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g. being coughed on, touching used paper tissues with a bare hand);
- A person having had face-to-face contact with a COVID-19 case within 2 metres and > 15 minutes;
- A person who was in a closed environment (e.g. classroom, meeting room, hospital waiting room, etc.) with a COVID-19 case for 15 minutes or more and at a distance of less than 2 metres;
- A healthcare worker (HCW) or other person providing direct care for a COVID-19 case, or laboratory workers handling specimens from a COVID-19 case without recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) or with a possible breach of PPE;
- A contact in an aircraft sitting within two seats (in any direction) of the COVID-19 case, travel companions or persons providing care, and crew members serving in the section of the aircraft where the index case was seated (if severity of symptoms or movement of the case indicate more extensive exposure, passengers seated in the entire section or all passengers on the aircraft may be considered close contacts).
Handling of suspected case of COVID-19
If a passenger moving within airport facilities meets the criteria of novel coronavirus case – https://eody.gov.gr/en/novel-coronavirus-covid-19-questions-and-answers-for-the-public/ – the following must apply:
The airport health supervisor (Health Check Station) must contact NPHO IMMEDIATELY at 210 5212054, 1135 (24/7) to declare the suspected case and receive guidance on how to handle the case.
- The passenger showing symptoms of respiratory infection (fever and cough or dyspnea), must be provided immediately with a standard surgical mask and tissues.
- The passenger must be transferred to an area designated for the accommodation of patients with contagious diseases. The areas’ air conditioning system may continue to operate.
- If the passenger was accompanied by another individual who still wishes to remain with him to take care of him (e.g. spouse), then this person must also be given a standard surgical mask and must practice hand hygiene at all times when coming in contact with the patient’s secretions (e.g. saliva) and, most importantly, before touching their face or before eating or drinking.
- Personnel must avoid entering the patient’s area unless there is a serious reason. This way, the number of employees exposed to infection may be reduced to minimum.
- Any used protective equipment (standard surgical mask, gloves) must be disposed of in a bin and must in no case be used again.
- After disposing of the protective equipment, you should wash your hands thoroughly with water and soap. Please note that using gloves does not replace hand washing, which is the most important measure of protection.
The airport company must see that adequate amounts of supplies used for infection prevention are available to and accessibly by the airport personnel:
- soap and water or hand disinfectant
- standard surgical masks
- disposable gloves
- garbage bags
- surface cleanser
Information to personnel may contribute towards an organized and controlled management of a case of alert. Timely planning and effective prevention can safeguard the personnel’s health and maintain smooth airport operation. Cooperation with NPHO is important both in establishing measures of prevention as well as in proceeding with necessary actions and the provision of information if a case of infection is reported.
Please note that as the epidemic progresses, this guidance may be modified.
For any further clarifications, please contact NPHO at 210 5212054 or 1135 (24/7)
You are kindly requested to inform all airport personnel on the above guidance