As Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continue to crop up and the death toll rises, concerns over the outbreak mount as well. Like most, and as a dad and frequent traveler, I’ve been following the news closely.
The overwhelming amount of misinformation is nearly as concerning as the disease itself. There are charlatans peddling silver as a cure, fear mongers spreading conspiracy theories, and dangerous recommendations like drinking bleach. Do Not Drink Bleach! There are more benign, maybe humorous, (or even racist?) rumors about getting the Coronavirus from eating Chinese food or drinking Corona beer. Washing down some spicy kung pow chicken with an ice cold Corona sounds like a delicious dinner to me.
In an effort to help clear up this alarming misinformation, we’re compiling a list of facts and recommendations directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Essentially, the best thing you can do is to avoid exposure to the disease with the same heightened awareness and precautions you would use during flu season.
As for myself, I will be traveling this weekend and will continue with my normal airport procedures with a few minor upgrades. Per usu, I will keep my hand sanitizer handy, wash my hands frequently, and avoid touching my face. As an added precaution, I will not accept snacks or beverages from the flight attendant and I may bring sanitizing wipes to wipe down my arm rests, buckle, and tray table. When I return home, I will be extra vigilant for two weeks when prepping food and smooching my daughter.
I am a healthy Gen Xer who is traveling domestically to states with low or no confirmed cases of the Coronavirus. I’m confident in my decision to continue with this trip. However, if I had a grandparent or friend with a compromised immune system who was planning on traveling, I would talk to them about reconsidering their plans. This is because of the increased risk of the illness becoming more serious for this population of people. Now to the facts; real information directly from the CDC website.
Risk Assessment as of March 5, 2020
- This is a rapidly evolving situation and not yet declared a pandemic.
- The potential public health threat is HIGH; however, the immediate risk in the United States currently is LOW as the virus is NOT currently spreading widely in America.
- COVID-19 has resulted in death and sustained person-to-person spread, inching us toward pandemic.
- Most cases of COVID-19 are mild, with serious illness occurring in 16% of cases. The greatest risk of serious illness is to those individuals who are older and/or have underlying health conditions.
- Those with close contact with patients with COVID-19, such as healthcare workers, are at elevated risk of exposure.
- Travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring are at elevated risk of exposure.
- It is likely that at some point, widespread transmission of COVID-19 will occur in the United States.
- There is no vaccine approved to protect against COVID-19 at this time but clinical trials have started. Approved vaccination is 12 to 18-months out.
- Global efforts are focused on containment with travel restrictions and quarantine.
How the Coronavirus Spreads
- The virus spreads mainly from person-to-person who are in close contact with one another (about 6 feet).
- It spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
- People are exposed when these infected droplets land in their mouths or noses or they are inhaled, or transfer to their mouths or noses.
- Some spread may be possible before infected people show symptoms; however, it is thought to be most contagious when people are at their most symptomatic (at their sickest).
- It may be possible to spread the coronavirus through infected surfaces and objects, by touching an infected item then touching your mouth, nose, and possibly eyes, but this is not thought to be the main process of transmission.
- COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected areas, but person-to-person spread can vary.
Watch for these Symptoms
- Watch for fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
- Symptoms range from mild to severe and even death for confirmed cases of COVID-19.
- Symptoms appear 2-14 days after exposure.
- Call your doctor if you develop symptoms and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have recently traveled to an area with community spread of COVID-19.
Prevention and Treatment
- There is currently no vaccine to prevent the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
- The best way to prevent the illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.
- Avoid close contact (6 feet) with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, throw the tissue in the trash, then wash your hands.
- Use regular household cleaning supplies to disinfect frequently touched items and surfaces.
- Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask, which is to not wear them when you are well but to use them when you are showing symptoms to help prevent spread.
- Face masks are crucial for health care workers and those caring for symptomatic people and should not be hoarded by healthy people at low risk.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Always wash when your hands are visibly dirty.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
What to Do if You are Sick
- Call ahead to a healthcare professional if you develop a fever, have symptoms like coughing or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have been in an area with ongoing community spread.
- Call your doctor ahead of time if you suspect the Coronavirus so they can take precautions to prevent others from getting exposed or infected.
- Seperate yourself from other people and animals (pets) in your home. Stay isolated to a specific room and separate bathroom, away from others in your home as much as possible.
- Stay home, except to get medical care. Do NOT go to work, school, or public areas. Do Not use public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
- Wear a face mask to prevent spread and restrict activities outside your home, except to get medical care.
- If you cannot wear a face mask while you are sick and at home, then have those around you wear a face mask.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze with a tissue. Throw away used tissues in a trash can with a liner. Then immediately wash your hand for at least 20 seconds using soap and water. If this is not readily available, then use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds often, especially after coughing; sneezing; blowing your nose; using the bathroom; before eating; or preparing food.
- Everyday, you should disinfect surfaces and objects considered “high-touch,” such as doorknobs, counters, tabletops, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, bedside tables. Disinfect any surfaces with bodily fluids on them.
- Monitor your symptoms and seek prompt medical attention if your illness becomes more serious. Before seeking care, notify your healthcare provider of your COVID-19 concerns before entering the facility so they can take steps to protect others. Ask that local or state health departments are notified of your COVID-19 status.
- If you call 911, notify dispatch personnel of your Coronavirus status and put on a facemask before emergency medical services arrive.
- Home isolation should not be discontinued by confirmed patients until secondary transmission risk to others is low. This decision must be made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with healthcare providers as well as local and state health departments.
The Coronavirus is serious and has the potential to become a pandemic. It is important to take precautions and consider your individual risk level. I don’t think we are at a time for panic, but the situation is worrisome, evolving quickly, and should be closely monitored. With that being said, I’m going to pick up some extra hand sanitizer on my way to my favorite Chinese food restaurant.