Navigating Coronavirus (COVID-19)
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Tips and Recommendations
Clean your hands often
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Clean and disinfect
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
- To disinfect:
- Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.
Avoid close contact
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
- Take steps to protect others
- Stay home if you are sick; except to get medical care.
Excerpt from CDC.
Public Health Recommendations
These have been recommended by professionals.
- Patients with COVID-19 have experienced mild to severe respiratory (lung) illness.
- Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
- Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
Recommendations if you feel sick
Remember, allergies, cold, and seasonal flu are common this time of year. Covid-19 is a respiratory illness. If you feel sick but not with fever and cough, (for example, if you have a runny nose) you should self-monitor and use over the counter medication to relieve symptoms that may be related to cold or allergies. Given the current situation, if possible, it is recommended that you also self-quarantine (stay inside and avoid contact with others in your home) out of caution. If your symptoms improve in fewer than 14 days, you can resume your regular activities. As always, wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, cough or sneeze into a tissue or your inner elbow, disinfect all shared surfaces before and after use, and do not share food, drinks, or utensils. This will reduce the transmission of any communicable disease to others and prevent further spread to the community.
However, if you think you have come in contact with someone who was confirmed with Coronavirus (COVID-19), or if you develop coronavirus symptoms of fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
For your safety and the safety of others, please do not come to an urgent care clinic or emergency room unless you have been told to do so by a healthcare professional.
Your first step should be to contact your doctor by phone. In most cases, your doctor can ask a few questions over the phone to determine whether you need to come in for an examination. This is important both to keep you from being unnecessarily exposed to others who might be sick and to allow the healthcare system to focus on those who need urgent care. Of course, if you do not have a primary care doctor and have no other choice, go to an urgent care facility.
Most people will get a mild case of the virus. If you are sick or exposed to someone who is sick, stay home for 14 days, even if you feel well enough to move around. Do your best to stay away from others. As much as possible, you should stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Also, you should use a separate bathroom, if available. For families caring for a sick person, limit contact as much as possible and clean shared spaces, doors, and countertops regularly. Your mild case could become a severe case for someone close to you.
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed.
- 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.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, or sneeze into your inner elbow. (And then wash your hands)
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Use disinfecting wipes to wipe down frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, phones, computers, and laptops.
You may have heard public health experts talking about social distancing as a way to help slow or stop the spread of COVID-19, but what is that? Social distancing means avoiding large crowds or social interactions with close contact. Examples of social distancing include:
- Not gathering in groups of more than 10.
- Not shaking hands or hugging,
- Remaining at least 6 feet away from others and especially anyone who is coughing or sneezing,
- Allowing employees to work from home or teleconference.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Things you should know
What is the novel coronavirus, and is it the same thing as COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. The name comes from the crown-like spikes on the viruses’ surfaces (“corona” means “crown” in Latin). Most coronaviruses only infect animals. Of the seven coronaviruses known to infect humans, four of them are very common and cause only mild illness. Two of them, MERS and SARS, are severe. The seventh is the novel coronavirus that’s currently spreading around the world. The illness it causes is called COVID-19.
We still don’t know exactly where the coronavirus originated, but experts suspect it came from bats in China. The virus was first detected in humans a few months ago in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and has since spread to almost 70 countries. This interactive map, from the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, tracks the number and location of all COVID-19 cases.
How does coronavirus spread?
While experts are still learning about coronavirus transmission, the virus mainly seems to spread from person to person. When someone who has the virus sneezes or coughs, they produce tiny respiratory droplets that can travel through the air and infect people within about a 6-foot radius.
It’s also possible to get coronavirus by touching a surface or an object with the virus on it and then touching your face, although this isn’t thought to be the primary mode of transmission. Experts aren’t sure how long the virus can survive on a surface. Studies suggest that coronaviruses might linger on surfaces for just a few hours or last for up to a few days, depending on environmental conditions.
What symptoms should you look out for?
The most common symptoms of coronavirus are similar to those of other respiratory infections going around (like the flu): fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms seem to take between two to 14 days to show up, but people may be able to transmit the virus before exhibiting symptoms.
While most reported cases of coronavirus appear to be mild, some patients develop serious infections. The World Health Organization recently reported a worldwide 3.4% death rate (surpassing the initial 2% estimate). But this number will probably continue to change, epidemiologists say. Current outbreak data only reflects diagnosed cases within a relatively small pool of people who’ve been tested.
How can you protect yourself from getting sick?
- First and foremost, wash your hands. Here’s the proper way to do it, according to the CDC: Use soap and water (warm or cold), lathering up and scrubbing the entirety of both hands (including underneath your nails) for at least 20 seconds. Dry your hands afterward, as studies show that wet hands transfer germs more easily. Hand-washing is especially important before eating, after using the restroom, and after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing. When running water isn’t available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wipes with at least 60 percent alcohol. The soap-and-water method is preferable because it removes certain types of germs more effectively than sanitizer does, especially when hands are greasy or dirty.
- Avoid touching your face (specifically your eyes, mouth and nose).
- Disinfect your phone as often as you wash your hands; dampen a microfiber cloth and add a small amount of regular soap to wipe down your device and its case, then gently pat them dry. The chemicals in disposable wipes or sprays may strip protective treatments from a smartphone’s screen, making it harder to read. “Phones present an extra risk because we keep them so close to our faces, so I recommend using a Bluetooth headset as much as possible,” says Dr. Georgine Nanos, a family medicine doctor in San Diego.
- Avoid shaking hands unless you know you can wash or sanitize them immediately.
- Get your seasonal flu shot if you haven’t done so already. You’re more susceptible to catching viruses when your immune system is down. While the flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19, it can help you stay in fighting form. Also, the fewer people who have the flu, the more healthcare resources we have for coronavirus. You can book a flu shot on Zocdoc or use the CDC’s flu vaccine finder.
Here’s a longer list of tips from the CDC.
Should you wear a face mask?
Healthy people don’t need to wear face masks, according to public health officials, unless they’re caring for people who are infected. There’s no strong evidence that wearing a mask in public, as a precaution, makes someone more resilient to infection. Additionally, many people wear masks improperly, and end up touching their faces more often with them on.
If someone is — or even might be — infected with coronavirus, however, the CDC says they should wear a mask in order to lessen the chance of infecting others. This guidance applies to standard, loose-fitting surgical masks as well as fitted N95 masks.
What should you do if you have coronavirus symptoms?
Contact your primary care provider before going to their office. Be sure to let them know if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus, or if you’ve recently traveled to an area where the virus is spreading, whether or not you have symptoms. If you don’t have a doctor to contact, you can also reach out to your local board of health.
Who should be tested?
Is there any treatment for coronavirus? What about a vaccine?
There’s no specific treatment for coronavirus yet, per the CDC. No vaccine is available yet either.
Antiviral drugs (like Tamiflu) are currently being tested, but experts say they’re months away from becoming available for use in the general public. For now, patients who need clinical care receive “supportive” treatment, such as supplemental oxygen.
A vaccine won’t be ready for at least 12 to 18 months, according to public health officials. An experimental vaccine has been developed, with clinical trials set to begin as early as April.
Who’s most likely to get severely ill from coronavirus?
While experts stress that anyone can contract COVID-19, some people are especially vulnerable to developing complications, such as pneumonia. The main higher-risk groups, per the CDC, are older people and those with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, COPD and other heart and lung diseases. Although it’s not clear why, preliminary data reported in JAMA also shows higher rates of coronavirus transmission, and resulting hospitalization and death, among men.
The CDC has updated its guidance for higher-risk populations, advising them to stay home as much as possible, stock up on supplies (medication, groceries, household items), steer clear of crowds and avoid cruises, in addition to taking the same precautions we all need to take.
By contrast, very few cases of coronavirus have been reported in children so far. In China, per the WHO, no one under 9 years old has died from the virus. The prevailing belief, experts say, is that young children are most likely contracting coronavirus (and thus able to spread it), but rarely becoming severely ill as a result. At this point, it’s not clear why they appear to be less vulnerable.
Should pregnant women be particularly concerned about COVID-19?
During pregnancy, the immune system, lungs and heart undergo changes. As a result, pregnant women are often especially vulnerable to becoming severely ill from respiratory infections. (That’s the case for the flu, as the CDC explains here. But while the flu and coronavirus can cause similar symptoms, they are different viruses.)
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says there’s not enough information yet about coronavirus to issue specific guidance for pregnant women.
For now, the CDC recommends that pregnant women take standard preventive measures to avoid infection, such as frequent hand-washing and avoiding people who are sick. If you are pregnant and have respiratory symptoms, or think you may have been exposed to the virus (whether or not you have symptoms), contact your healthcare provider.
If you're healthy, what else should you be doing now?
Prepare for the possibility of an outbreak in your community. In that case, local and state officials might decide to close schools, or implement other social-distancing measures to curb community spread. This is already happening in some affected areas in the US.
Depending on your medical needs, preparation might include stocking up on extra refills of any medications you regularly take. Read more here.
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