As of March 11th, 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been recognized as a worldwide pandemic. We have known about the virus ever since it hit China last month, but now that it is at your door you need to protect yourself. Identifying symptoms, too, is important so that you can get help and avoid infecting others.
It is important to stay calm and focused on reality. While this situation and the word pandemic are very scary, panic only minimizes our ability to think rationally. One of the greatest ways to curtail panic is with knowledge and awareness.
First, let’s talk about what you need in order to prepare.
- The main thing you might face is prolonged periods of quarantine. This has happened in China and Italy both, so it may happen to you. In the case of quarantine, you will have to stay inside your home.
- According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) there are some key things you can do to prepare (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 prevent getting the virus in the first place.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), clean your hands often for at least 20 seconds each wash. Definitely wash your hands 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. Soap and water are better than hand sanitizer if they are available, so please don’t stock pile hand sanitizer.
Clean your home well and regularly.
The CDC precautions continue, saying whenever possible avoid touching surfaces in public areas that are touched by many, such as doorknobs, handrails, and elevator buttons. Handshakes need to be postponed for now. You can use your sleeve or a tissue when you touch these. Wash your hands right after contact.
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.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), you should follow safe respiratory hygiene. When sneezing or coughing, make sure to cover nose and mouth with either a bent elbow or tissue. Throw away all tissues right after use. This is because droplets spread virus by way of spores.
Both the WHO and the CDC advise that if you are 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.
According to a medical professional who spoke with CNN on March 10, 2020, a 6-foot distance between people is a safe bet.
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.
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.
Who Is At Highest 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