Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus and How to Prevent It

 Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus and How to Prevent It

By Lisa Mulcahy, Parade

You’ve no doubt heard about the coronavirus outbreak that began in China, but has spread to the U.S. And you’ve probably heard that the illness can be deadly—and that face masks, hand sanitizer and toilet paper is starting to sell out—but you’re not sure how concerned you should really be. You need facts, and we’ve got them. Here’s an overview about what a coronavirus is, the specific details about the version of it you’re currently hearing about, how potentially problematic it is, and what you can do to protect yourself.

So is it time to freak out? No. COVID-19 may indeed become an epidemic in the future, but at this time, the actual risk to anyone in the U.S. is low. What’s more, we have no reason to believe it will cause serious infection in every person who gets it. So take a deep breath—the best thing you can do is stay informed. Here’s everything you need to know right now.

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus (CoV) is a group of viruses that encompass everything from the common cold to respiratory diseases like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), according to the World Health Organization. The strain of coronavirus that’s causing issues right now is called 2019-nCoV, and it’s considered a “novel” virus—it has not been seen in people before. Coronaviruses are characterized by the fact that they’re passed from animals to people. 2019-nCoV is believed to have originated at a live animal and seafood market in Wuhan, China.

Healthy Now Tip
Drying your hands is as important as washing them. Wet hands transmit bacteria more easily, so especially during cold and flu season, take the time to dry them thoroughly.

From Our Partners at the Cleveland Clinic

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

Coronavirus symptoms are very similar to the way you feel if you have a cold or the flu. You can experience fever, cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing. If a coronavirus infection is severe enough, symptoms can progress to pneumonia, kidney failure and SARS; the infection can potentially be fatal.

How widespread is the 2020 coronavirus outbreak?

On March 11, the World Health Organization characterized 2019-bCoV as a global health pandemic. According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), as of March 16, there were 81,077 reported cases of the virus confirmed in mainland China and approximately 86,434 cases outside of it; 6,606 people have died worldwide.

The countries impacted so far are: China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Afghanistan, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nepal, Oman, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The Republic of Korea, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.
 Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus and How to Prevent It

Has coronavirus spread in the U.S.?

There are 1,678 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the U.S. as of March 16, including Hollywood stars Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, and most recently, Idris Elba. However, the CDC is investigating one COVID-19 case in Northern California in which the patient had not traveled or had known contact with anyone who has COVID-19. This could indicate the first incidence of “community spread” of the virus. The CDC has already stated that the outbreak will inevitably spread in a wider way.

Will the arrival of spring and warmer weather kill off the coronavirus?

The CDC says we don’t know yet, although other viruses like colds and flu do infect fewer people in warm weather. Scientists are currently trying to figure out how temperature changes will affect COVID-19.

If I were to get coronavirus, what would I have to do?

You wouldn’t leave home except to go to the doctor or hospital. You’d wear a face mask around any person or animal you’d be near. You would wash your hands all the time with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in a pinch. You’d avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes. You’d wash the counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables in your home often, and clean any body fluids off surfaces in your home. You would avoid sharing things like dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with anyone else. You would have someone else take care of your pets, because it’s unknown whether animals can get sick from COVID-19.

Should I be stockpiling supplies in the case of a coronavirus epidemic?

No. The situation here in the U.S. does not require emergency stockpiling of supplies. The CDC does say it’s a good idea to keep some supplies on hand in case of an event when you can’t get out of your house, though. You can check out their recommended list. It’s intended for patients with a blood disease, but the CDC says it’s applicable for every household. But there is no current emergency that would require you to panic-buy.

Should I wear a mask around other people?

If you’re sick, yes. If not, a simple face mask will not necessarily help protect you from infection, as it’s not airtight. The rule to follow: If you’re sick, stay home. If you’re not, avoid being around those who are.

If you’re going to around a lot of sick people, like if you’re visiting a friend in the hospital, a mask might be a good idea. Here’s how to properly use a protective mask:
  • Wash or sanitize your hands first.
  • Don’t touch the mask while you’re wearing it, and don’t reuse it—put on a fresh mask each time you use one.
  • Take the mask off from behind. on’t pull it off from the front near your nose and mouth. Then throw it away in a closed trash can and wash or sanitize your hands.

What does the CDC say about the current coronavirus?

First things first: the director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Robert K. Redfield, says that the risk from COVID-19 to Americans can be broken down into risk of exposure versus risk of serious illness and death.

The CDC also directs readers to information in this statement on 2019-nCoV (edited for clarity), which was updated on March 15:

“Risk of exposure:

  • The immediate risk of being exposed to this virus is still low for most Americans, but as the outbreak expands, that risk will increase. Cases of COVID-19 and instances of community spread are being reported in a growing number of states.
  • People in places where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated risk of exposure, with the level of risk dependent on the location.
  • Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Close contacts of persons with COVID-19 also are at elevated risk of exposure.
  • Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring also are at elevated risk of exposure, with level of risk dependent on where they traveled.

Risk of Severe Illness:

Early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started, shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. This includes:
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Lung disease

CDC has developed guidance to help in the risk assessment and management of people with potential exposures to COVID-19.

More cases of COVID-19 are likely to be identified in the United States in the coming days, including more instances of community spread. CDC expects that widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur. In the coming months, most of the U.S. population will be exposed to this virus.

Widespread transmission of COVID-19 could translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, and workplaces, may experience more absenteeism. Mass gatherings may be sparsely attended or postponed. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and sectors of the transportation industry may also be affected. Healthcare providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed. At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it. Nonpharmaceutical interventions will be the most important response strategy to try to delay the spread of the virus and reduce the impact of disease.

Global efforts at this time are focused concurrently on lessening the spread and impact of this virus. The federal government is working closely with state, local, tribal, and territorial partners, as well as public health partners, to respond to this public health threat.

CDC is implementing its pandemic preparedness and response plans, working on multiple fronts, including providing specific guidance on measures to prepare communities to respond to local spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. There is an abundance of pandemic guidance developed in anticipation of an influenza pandemic that is being adapted for a potential COVID-19 pandemic.”

Is it safe to travel during this current coronavirus outbreak?

The CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations. 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.

If you have to travel, you should discuss your specific risks for the virus with your doctor before you leave. If you go, you want to make sure to avoid anyone who appears sick or tells you they are sick. You also want to avoid animals, either dead or alive, any animal markets, or uncooked meat of any kind. Every time you wash your hands, you need to scrub for at least 20 seconds (good advice any time no matter where you are, in fact). Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer on the go.

If you have recently returned from China—in the past two weeks—and you get a fever, a cough or have trouble breathing, call your doctor or the ER BEFORE you go in to tell them you’ve returned from China and feel ill. Your healthcare provider can then take preventative measures before you arrive there in case you do have 2019-nCoV, so others aren’t infected.

How can you prevent coronavirus?

The best thing you can do to avoid getting affected with COVID-19 is to wash your hands often. Use plain old soap and water; an alcohol-based hand sanitizer works well if you’re not near a sink. This will get rid of the virus on your skin if you come into contact with it.

If you need to cough or sneeze, do it into your bent elbow or a tissue, then put the tissue in a closed trash can and wash or sanitize your hands.

Stay three feet away from people when you talk to them, especially if they have respiratory symptoms or a fever. This way, virus droplets from a sneeze or cough won’t be able to land on you, and you won’t breathe in the virus, either.

How nervous should I be about coronavirus?

Now you’re imagining yourself coming into contact unknowingly with someone who’s got coronavirus, aren’t you? You feel a creeping anxiety…but you’re totally going to be fine. It’s all about keeping your perspective.

“If you are experiencing health anxiety about this virus, you must first remember that out of everyone who gets a cough or fever, 99% of those people will never have the coronavirus,” says Gail Saltz, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, a psychoanalyst with the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, and host of the upcoming podcast “Personology.” “If you’re very involved in social media, you’re often being bombarded with scary messages about the coronavirus that aren’t true. Headlines that alarm you, and that alarm pings your brain as if you were staring at a bear! I think right away, the solution to this is to look less at those sensational headlines on social media. Don’t get your information from memes—go to a website with accurate information on the coronavirus, like the CDC website.”

Don’t overreact to every sniffle. “If you feel ill, go to the doctor and get checked, but then once the doctor says you have a cold and not the coronavirus, believe the doctor and stop worrying,” says Saltz. “If you continue to worry, that indeed is anxiety, not a serious illness.” You should absolutely talk to a therapist if you feel you need help getting a handle on your anxiety.

Want to try some self-help? Saltz recommends daily aerobic exercise, meditation if that works for you, tensing and then relaxing your muscles, and warm baths can help. She also suggests this great reality tune-up: “Write down your worst case scenario four or five times in a row. Then read over your worst case scenario for a 20 minute period—read it over and over. Your brain, through that repetition, will say, hey, this worst case scenario is not very likely to happen.” Bottom line: stay accurately informed about coronavirus—but it’s OK to go about your daily life, and enjoy it!

What not to do during the coronavirus outbreak

Worry about getting mail or packages from China.

The World Health Organization says that coronaviruses don’t survive long on inanimate objects.

Think you’re infected because you spent time in the past few hours with somebody who had the sniffles.

COVID-19’s incubation period is believed to range between one and 12.5 days, with five to six days the average time. Again, though, remember, the odds of getting the coronavirus in this country remain very low, period.

Ask your doctor for preventative antibiotics.

That’s not a great idea ever for most people, but in the case of the coronavirus, antibiotics don’t apply at all. They treat bacterial infections, not viruses. Some patients who are hospitalized for COVID-19 are given antibiotics, but only if they have a bacterial infection they are fighting off at the same time.

Clean your house or workplace with special chemicals.

A new study from University Medicine Greifswald in Germany finds that common household cleaners will do the trick to inactivate coronaviruses on surfaces. The chemicals in cleansers they found to work were:
  • 62-71% ethanol
  • 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or
  • 0.1% sodium hypochlorite
  • bleach

All of these chemicals kill coronaviruses within one minute.

See more at: Parade
 Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus and How to Prevent It

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Health Magazine: Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus and How to Prevent It
Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus and How to Prevent It
Facts you need to know about the 2020 coronavirus outbreak, including what it is, prevention, symptoms, travel during the coronavirus outbreak, and more.
Health Magazine
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