How to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus

Since the December outbreak in Wuhan, China, the 2019 novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has spread rapidly, with more than 105,000 confirmed cases in 101 countries as of early March. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus seems to be spreading in the community in certain affected geographic areas. As with any virus, you can take simple steps to protect yourself:

Know the signs. The symptoms of coronavirus are often similar to those of other respiratory virus infections, including the flu. COVID-19 symptoms can include fever, cough or shortness of breath. Most people will have only mild symptoms, but some can become very sick. When person-to-person spread has occurred with other novel coronaviruses, it is thought to have happened mainly via respiratory droplets spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu is spread.

If you think you may have been exposed to a person with coronavirus and have symptoms, before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your symptoms and any recent travel. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor will determine whether or not you need to come in to be evaluated. Avoid contact with others and wear a face mask if you need to leave your home when you are sick.

Keep things clean. Preventive measures are your first line of defense. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus is to practice good hygiene. Make these CDC recommendations part of your routine:
  • Wash your hands 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 you’re caring for someone who is sick, wash your hands before and after tending to them.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces every day.
  • If you are sick, stay home.

Visit the CDC for guidelines on how to properly wash your hands and use hand sanitizer.

Should you wear a face mask? You may have noticed a growing number of people out and about with their faces covered, but the CDC does not recommend the use of face masks among the general public. Face masks should be used only by people who show COVID-19 symptoms to help prevent the spread of the disease to others and by health-care workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings.
Plan your travel accordingly. The CDC suggests avoiding all nonessential travel to mainland China, Iran, South Korea and Italy. Older adults and those with chronic medical conditions—heart disease, diabetes, respiratory ailments and obesity—also should consider avoiding nonessential travel to Japan. It’s important to note that layovers at airports in these destinations count. If a layover is unavoidable, the CDC recommends travelers stay at the airport. Stay up to date with CDC’s travel health notices. As of now, there are no travel recommendations for inside the U.S., but several conferences and festivals have been affected.

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