It’s now official – this virus is now a pandemic – as of March 11th, 2020. If you want to know how to avoid the Corona Virus (COVID-19), we’ve got you covered.
This thing started in China last month, but has now spread around the world. It seems nobody is safe, so it’s time to start thinking about how best to protect yourself and your loved ones. You want to know how to identify the symptoms and their severity, so that you can get help and avoid infecting others.
The first and arguably most important thing is to stay calm and remain focused on reality. While this situation and the word pandemic are very scary, if you panic you are reducing your ability to act and think rationally. One of the greatest ways to curtail panic is with knowledge and awareness.
Let’s start with preparation. What sort of things do we need to be thinking about in order to prepare?
- Quarantine. If you are diagnosed as having the virus – even if your symptoms are not severe, it is probable that you will have to go through a period of quarantine – to avoid infecting others. This has happened in several countries (and cruise ships), so it more likely than not. It is most probable that this will be home-based, and you will have to stay inside your home for two weeks or more.
- General Preparation. There are a few things that you can do to help prepare yourself (just in case):
- Create an emergency contact list. This should include emergency contacts for neighbors, friends, family, your health care team, employers, schools and your local health department.
- Learn about your employer’s emergency operations plan. Find out exactly what your plan covers as to sick leave, work from home possibilities and how your employer plans to deal with this outbreak.
- Most important, stay informed, look to credible sources for information about COVID-19 and reject gossip and hype, which only propagate panic and anxiety.
Let’s talk about what you can do to avoid getting the virus in the first place. The most important thing here is cleanliness. This is the most powerful form of protection which reduces the risk of infection.
First up – washing your hands – after going to the toilet and eating is most likely part of your daily routine, but add to that the habit with a few other occasions. This includes washing your hands (with soap, and for at least 20 seconds) after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Remember though that soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizer if they are available, so please don’t stock pile hand sanitizer.
Next is your home. Clean it well, and do so regularly.
What about when you are out and about? To help limit the spread of the virus, and reduce your own chances of catching it, there are a few simple things we can do.
- As far as possible, try to avoid touching surfaces in public areas – especially those that are touched by lots of people, such as doorknobs, handrails, and elevator buttons. You can use your sleeve or a tissue when you touch these. Wash your hands as soon as you can after contact if it is unavoidable.
- Handshakes should be postponed for now. The French have even gone so far as to recommend not doing the traditional European kiss cheek.
- Stay away from anyone you know who has a cold or flu symptoms. The World Health Organization recommends at least a 3-foot distance away from someone who is coughing or sneezing.
- If you are sneezing or coughing, the World Health Organization (WHO), recommends that you make sure to cover your nose and mouth with either a bent elbow or tissue. Then throw away all tissues right after use, as droplets can spread the virus by way of spores.
Dr. William Schaffner, an internist and infectious disease specialist from Vanderbilt University told CNN on March 9, that the elderly and those with existing compromised health are best served by staying away from crowds, so for now postpone going to concerts, philharmonic and other places where large crowds gather in small spaces.
If you become sick – stay home. Even when you don’t know if it is Corona or just a cold, it is better to stay home until you feel well again.
As of March 11, 2020, the authorities recommend not gathering in large crowds of 500 or more for everyone, hence the cancellation of sporting events around the US, including March Madness, the closing of Disneyland and the cancellation of various conventions. Respiratory infection spreads faster in poor ventilated areas and closed in settings.
Am I More at Risk, or Less at Risk?
Older adults (Over 60) and those who have existing medical conditions including, lung disease, heart disease and diabetes will suffer the most and have the highest mortality rate if infected, according to the CDC.
The director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier says, the highest risk of COVID-19 is for those over age 80 who have other medical conditions.
If you or someone you know fits into a high risk category, stock up on groceries and any required medications, leave space between you and others, avoid crowds and travel, clean your hands and your house often, and stay home as much as possible.
The CDC lists the following symptoms to look for, which are much like a cold:
- Shortness of breath
If you have the normal symptoms, call your health care provider for an evaluation.
Emergency warning signs:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish face or lips
If you experience the emergency warning signs, seek medical assistance immediately.
Obviously, if you have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 you should see your doctor or seek emergency services immediately to get tested and do not come into contact with others to prevent spread.
More Information and Resources
- General hygiene and cleanliness along with correspondence with your health care provider will go a long way.
- Wash your hands for twenty seconds often, especially after touching things many others have touched.
- Clean your house regularly, especially high use surfaces.
For more information on COVID-19, consult the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
World Health Organization – https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019