The 2019 coronavirus has taken the world by storm, and understandably so. The number of confirmed cases continues to rise every day, the mortality rate seems high, and many questions about the outbreak remain unanswered.
Considering all this, the prevention methods are fairly simple.
Coronaviruses were discovered in the 1960s. They form a fairly large family, with seven known human pathogens. Coronaviruses are believed to cause a significant percentage of all common colds. The colds from coronaviruses tend to be more severe than the average, causing fever and bronchitis. In some cases, it can cause pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.
This new strain, simply called the novel coronavirus (or 2019-nCoV, or the Wuhan coronavirus), is not the first dangerous coronavirus. Genetic sequences show similarities to the SARS-CoV (79.5% similar), which caused a severe outbreak in 2003, killing over 800 people.
So far, there is no tailored treatment or vaccine for the novel coronavirus — but luckily, for most people, the body can deal with the disease on its own.
Although 99% of infections are in China, there are concerns about the virus spreading internationally. Here are the best coronavirus prevention practices, as presented by the CDC and health professionals.
First of all, if you exhibit any flu-like symptoms and have traveled to China or been exposed to someone who has, consult with your local physician or health body for a diagnosis as soon as possible.
For more general information about the coronavirus, check out our previous article:
There’s nothing really particular to this virus — it’s mostly general tips that also apply to other viral diseases such as influenza.
1. Wash your hands
That’s it — your best best bet against the coronavirus is washing your hands. This simple act is surprisingly good at clearing pathogens off your hands.
Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds — think of it as the length of a song chorus. If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60%.
It’s simple, straightforward, and very effective. Wash your hands, and you’re already on the right track.
2. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
Part of the reason why it’s so important to wash your hands (compared to other parts compared to other parts of your body) is that your hands are always in contact with your face — specifically, your eyes, nose, and mouth.
The coronavirus is a respiratory infection, so your respiratory tract is particularly susceptible.
The mucous membranes are also more vulnerable to disease transmission in general. If you touch your face a lot, wash your hands a lot.
3. Disinfect your phone once in a while
Picture this scenario. You somehow get a virus on your hands. You tinker with your phone a bit, wash your hands, and then take a call. You then happily scratch your nose, knowing that you’ve washed your hands.
Our phones are covered in germs. We tend to forget about it as this is a relatively new problem, but phones are in contact with our face all the time, and they can pass on germs.
If you do this, though, be careful — antibacterial wipes and disinfectants can be abrasive and scratch your phone. The best way to disinfect your phone is to use an alcohol-based sanitizer and a plain cloth. Again, it’s simple and super effective.
This goes for other objects whose surfaces you are often in contact with.
4. Avoid sick people
Of course, this is easier said than done. The best starting place is avoiding close contact with strangers (on public transportation, for instance), and steering clear of sneezes and coughs. Avoiding large, crowded gatherings is also something to consider. If you must attend such an event, you can use a face mask — however, some physicians argue that the prevention efficacy of masks has not been proven.
If you yourself sneeze or cough, cover your mouth a tissue and throw the tissue away. Germs that can infect the respiratory system often spread through mucus and saliva that people expel when they cough or even just talk.
5. Stay home if you’re sick. Tell sick colleagues to stay home
The CDC (and all national health bodies) say that you should stay at home when you are sick. This goes for the coronavirus, the flu, any contagious disease.
If you have any symptoms, consult your doctor and don’t just brush it off. If you see any colleagues or coworkers struggling, advise them to stay home.
6. Keep your surroundings clean, and practice good hygiene
Again, this is general advice, but it can go a long way. Clean your room a bit, sanitize those doorknobs once in a while, wash regularly and thoroughly.
Soap is your best ally — and this cannot be emphasized enough.
7. Avoid eating raw animal products (especially from infected areas)
The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat is never a good idea. The same goes for the consumption of any raw ingredients, including milk or animal organs. It should be noted that some cheeses are also made from raw milk.
Everything should be cooked sufficiently to ensure that pathogens have been eliminated.
Avoiding markets with live animals is also a good idea. should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
The CDC does have specific guidance for travelers but it has issued a few warnings and recommendations. Recommendations from other health bodies fall in the same line.
- Avoid non-essential trips to China, particularly to big cities and the province of Hubei, whose capital is Wuhan.
- If you do have to travel, pay extra attention to the prevention measures above.
- Avoid traveling when sick.
- Seek medical help if you are concerned.
- If you travel to China, be prepared for airport screenings and potential quarantine.
- Stay informed. This is an ongoing situation which can change quickly.