COVID-19, the new virus that is sweeping across the world is at the forefront of everyone’s mind these days. Schools have closed around the world and store shelves are quickly being emptied as people prepare for potential lockdowns. The travel industry has screeched to a halt as people are afraid to fly and travel restrictions make it harder and harder to move from place to place. All of these efforts are meant to prevent the spread of the new novel coronavirus and the disease which it causes, COVID-19. This virus causes a mild illness in most people, and many recover without long-lasting effects. However, in some it is more severe, and may even lead to death. The quick spread of the virus has everyone thinking about how to stay safe and healthy during the time of COVID-19.
Protect your own health and that of others by taking the following steps:
The best thing you can do to prevent getting sick is the same thing that you should be doing already, especially during cold and flu season - practicing good hygiene. Handwashing is particularly important. Wash your hands as frequently and thoroughly as possible with soap and water. When soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your face as viruses on surfaces you touch may be transferred to your face and make you sick.
Make sure you wash your hands after coughing or sneezing, when providing care for someone who is sick, when preparing food, before eating, after using the bathroom, after handling animals or their waste and any time your hands are visibly dirty.
You should also make sure you are practicing good hygiene when you sneeze or cough. Cover your nose and mouth with your bent elbow or a tissue rather than your bare hand when coughing or sneezing. Any tissues you use should promptly be disposed of as well.
When you must go out in public, keep as far away from others as you can, especially if someone is coughing or sneezing. Keeping a distance of at least 3 feet between you and others helps to prevent you from breathing in any droplets that are released from their nose or mouth when they sneeze or cough. These droplets could potentially contain the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease. When greeting a friend, use a wave or a nod rather than a handshake or a high-five as the virus can be passed by contact. During these uncertain times when the disease is spreading rapidly, social distancing is a key step that we can take to prevent and slow the further spread.
Stay Home if You Are Sick
If you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever that you stay home. Many places are now recommending you stay home and do not seek medical attention if you are sick but only have mild symptoms. If you start to have difficulty breathing or other, more serious symptoms, then it’s time to get checked out! Call your local health authority for instructions on where and when to seek medical care in your area in order to protect you and prevent the spread of the virus and other infections. This is especially important for those in certain risk categories such as people over 60, immune-compromised individuals and those with underlying conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and respiratory conditions.
Watch the News and Stay Informed
The situation with COVID-19 is rapidly changing and in order to best protect yourself, you need to keep up with the latest news and any changes that may affect your daily life. Each affected country now has national and local authorities and task forces that are managing policies surrounding the virus spread and also communicating pertinent information to the public. The World Health Organization Website or the website of your own country’s health authority is a good place to start.
Avoid Large Gatherings
Many locations around the world are canceling events and closing venues where crowds might gather. Likewise, if you want to protect yourself from COVID-19 and reduce the likelihood you will become ill, plan to avoid large gatherings for the time being. Classes may move online so students can continue their studies, church-goers may watch video services, movie theaters may close, concerts and other large events will likely be canceled. Even if these things are not canceled, re-consider attending them if you are in an area where COVID-19 is spreading.
Follow Any Recommended Quarantine Guidelines
If you choose to travel to virus affected areas, or the virus is spreading to many people in your area, the authorities may request that you quarantine yourself in your home for a period of time. It is essential for the well-being of everyone that you follow any recommended guidelines. These quarantine rules are there to protect you from getting ill and also from spreading the virus if you might have been exposed.