Follow these simple precautions to reduce your chances of contracting the new coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19.
Since the December outbreak in Wuhan, China, the new coronavirus has spread rapidly, with 7.4 million confirmed cases in the world as of mid June. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), the virus that causes the disease known as COVID-19 seems to be spreading in the community in certain affected geographic areas. As with any virus, however, there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself.
Know the signs
The symptoms of infection for the new coronavirus are often similar to those of other respiratory virus infections, such as influenza. Symptoms can include fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Most people will only have mild symptoms, but some can become very sick. When person-to-person spread has occurred with other novel coronaviruses that caused diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), it is thought to have happened mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. Spread of MERS and SARS has generally occurred between people in close contact.
“The means of transmission is similar: through respiratory droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes, or by direct physical contact with an infected person, such as shaking hands,”.
If you think you may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 and have symptoms, before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your symptoms and any recent travel. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor will determine whether or not you need to come in to be evaluated. Avoid contact with others and wear a face mask if you need to leave your home when you are sick.
How contagious is the new coronavirus? A person infected with the new coronavirus can spread the virus to 1.5 – 3.5 people. This metric, known as the R0 or R-naught, describes how contagious a virus is. Here, we show how quickly the new coronavirus can jump from 1 infection to over 1 million.
Keep things clean
Preventative measures are your first line of defense. The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to practice good hygiene and to make these CDC recommendations part of your routine:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, rather than into your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Wear a cloth face mask
On April 3, the CDC changed its guidelines on face masks, recommending that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings. This is especially encouraged in situations where social distancing is difficult to maintain (such as in a grocery store or pharmacy) and in areas of significant community-based transmission. According to the CDC, studies have shown that individuals with the novel coronavirus could be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, prompting them to make this new recommendation. While this measure is intended to help mitigate the spread, it’s important to note that it does not replace social distancing recommendations. In addition, surgical masks and N-95 respirators should remain reserved for healthcare workers and medical first responders.
Avoid close contact
The CDC recommends maintaining a distance of approximately 6 feet from others in public places since respiratory droplets produced by coughing or sneezing do not travel more than 6 feet. While at home, remind everyone to practice everyday preventive actions – such as washing hands and wiping down surfaces – to help reduce the risk of getting sick. If you are symptomatic and have tested positive for COVID-19 but do not require hospitalization, you should stay in a specific “sick room” and away from other people in your home as much as possible and use a separate bathroom, if available. If your living space makes it difficult to keep a 6-foot distance, stay as far apart as you can and continue to practice good hygiene and wear a mask.
Restrict your travel
Many states have put out the call for individuals to stay home, except to make essential trips to the grocery store, pharmacy or for some outdoor exercise.
The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Brazil, China, Iran, most European countries, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Most foreign nationals who have been in one of these countries during the previous 14 days will not be allowed to enter the United States. “For people at risk for the complications of COVID-19, such as those with underlying medical conditions or those who are older, it’s prudent to avoid any long-distance travel,”.
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