The arrival and spread of COVID-19 has disrupted our lives in unprecedented ways and ushered in considerable uncertainty over what the future holds for us, our families, and even the nation. With tangible facts about this novel virus in short supply, it’s easy to feel as though we have no control over its impact. The truth is, there are several steps we can take as individuals to help reduce the risk of getting infected as well as prevent the spread of the virus to others in our community.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following commonsense measures (source: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html):
Watch for the symptoms
Reported illnesses for confirmed COVID-19 cases have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, and may appear two to 14 days following exposure to the virus. Call your medical provider for guidance if you experience these or other concerning symptoms, and get medical attention immediately if you experience emergency warning signs such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or the inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face.
Practice social spacing
The coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important to avoid close contact with people who are or might be sick by allowing at least six feet of space between yourself and others and avoiding large social gatherings.
Social distancing is especially important for individuals who are at higher risk of getting very ill from this disease, which includes older people and individuals of any age with a pre-existing health condition such as heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease.
Clean your hands frequently
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If you don’t have access to soap and water, an acceptable alternative is to use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. When using hand sanitizer, cover all the surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Don’t spare the disinfectant
The virus can also be spread by people touching surfaces with the virus on it, so in addition to frequent handwashing, be sure to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. This is especially important if someone in your home is sick.
Cover your coughs and sneezes
Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and discard used tissues in the trash. If you don’t have tissues, use the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Don’t forget to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer afterward.
If you’re sick, stay home
If you’re feeling sick, stay home. Do not go to work, school, or any public place. Call your medical provider for guidance. If possible, try to separate yourself from others in your home, for example by staying in a designated “sick room” and using a separate bathroom. Also, avoid sharing dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home—and wash these items thoroughly after using them. Seek medical care if you begin to feel worse or experience any of the emergency warning signs mentioned above.
Stay tuned to updates from federal, state, and local authorities
If the last several weeks have taught us anything, it’s that recommendations and advisories related to COVID-19 are in a constant state of flux as health authorities at all levels learn more about this disease and struggle to stay ahead of its spread. So, keep in mind that these recommendations may be modified as this challenge unfolds. It’s vital to pay close attention to the latest updates from federal, state, and local authorities and be ready to change course or implement additional measures as advised.
More information on COVID-19 and steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones can be found at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html, coronavirus.gov, and lucascountyhealth.com.