As the novel Coronavirus sweeps across the nation and the world, everyone is asking the same question: how do I protect myself and my family from this new virus? Store shelves are barren; disinfectants, paper goods, and dry pasta are nowhere to be found. Price gouging is prevalent online at most well known seller websites like Amazon and Walmart.
SARS-CoV-2 belongs to the same family as the Coronavirus SARS that killed 774 people worldwide during the 2003 outbreak. COVID-19, the novel Coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China has now spread to five continents.
What is a virus? Simply put, a virus is an infectious agent that infects and replicates inside living cells once it hijacks those cells. A virus is a parasite that infects live organisms; humans, animals, plants and even microorganisms such as bacteria.
Viruses are incredibly complex parasites that do not belong to any kingdom because they do not contain cells. They need live cells in order to replicate, which is their main purpose. They force cells to produce new proteins that the cell does not need, yet they are needed for viruses to reproduce.
The common cold and seasonal flu are both examples of viruses we’re familiar with today.
Whether or not you’ve been able to get your hands on desired face masks, hand sanitizer, and Clorox wipes, there are still ways you can fight viral infections and protect yourself.
1. Practice Social Distancing
What is social distancing? Social distancing is deliberately staying away from and increasing space between people; family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. An example of a social distancing measure occurring today is the cancellation of sporting events typically featuring large crowds.
As the confirmations that Coronavirus has hit all 50 states were revealed, social distancing can be a key factor in slowing the spread of the virus. Schools have shut their doors and extended spring break, and some restaurants ceased serving food inside, and allow only takeout orders. On Friday March 13th, 2020, Disneyland resort in Anaheim California closed its doors. The NBA season halted, and numerous events were cancelled nationwide until further notice.
The White House announced that for the next few weeks it’s imperative that Americans heed the advice of social distancing. This includes gatherings of more than 10 people, limiting unnecessary travel, and halt meeting at restaurants and bars.
2. Wash Your Hands Frequently
With most hand sanitizer no longer available on store shelves, many people are concerned about not being able to snag a bottle. But according to health experts, washing your hands for at least 20 seconds is more effective in killing germs and viruses than using hand sanitizer.
Washing your hands, face, or household surfaces with soap and water is effective at removing viruses such as COVID-19. When you use soap and water to wash your hands, viral particles become suspended in the water so they can be washed away. It ain’t fancy, but it works!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers steps on properly washing hands. First wet your hands with water and apply soap. Lather your hands with soap completely and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Make sure to scrub your fingernails, as well as the top of your hands too. Rinse your hands with clean water, and dry your hands with a clean towel.
3. Clean Surfaces (Especially High Touch Areas)
One of the things we’ve learned about the novel coronavirus is that it can survive and live on surfaces for days. The type of surface determines the life duration of the virus. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday, March 17th found that viable viral particles could be detected on copper for up to 4 hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel for up to 3 days.
Cleaning high touch surfaces in your home regularly can help kill viral particles, and other germs, that can still be viable and infectious. These areas include high touch counters, appliances, door knobs, bathrooms, and others. You may use a disinfectant spray or wipe on these surfaces, or plain old soap and water.
4. Get Vaccinated￼
It seems like a no brainer, but a surprising number of individuals in the United States are refusing to vaccinate themselves and their children. In the year 2000 measles had been declared eliminated in the United States. But in the spring of 2019, a decline in measles vaccinations around the nation began to cause a preventable resurgence of the disease.
Anti vaccine misinformation is circulating around communities in the United States at an alarming rate, and seen in communities containing large amounts of new parents.
Some common viral vaccines available today include: the influenza virus, hepatitis A and B, measles, HPV, rubella, and smallpox vaccines, to name a few. While the world’s top scientists are scrambling to produce a new vaccine for the novel Coronavirus, refusing to vaccinate with readily available viral vaccines, aside from a few medically exempt cases, is a deadly game to play.
5. Practice Good Food Safety Techniques
You can prevent infections caused by food borne pathogens by practicing good food safety techniques, and preparing and storing your food safely. Always rinse all meats, fish, and poultry under clean running water before cooking. The same rule of thumb goes for fruits and vegetables; rinse before serving.
Never keep raw meat and seafood next to cooked food. Do not use the same cutting boards, knives, and utensils that you used on raw foods, for your cooked foods. Always cook foods thoroughly. Poultry must be cooked to 180 F, ground meats to 160 F, and steaks to 145 F.
6. Prevent Infections With Animal Safety
Many wild animals can transmit rabies and other dangerous infections. Skunks, bats, raccoons, and coyotes may spread rabies to humans if they bite them. Keep your pets away from wild animals as well. Rabies can be transferred from infected pets to humans. Untreated rabies in humans always results in death.
Keep rodents from entering your home by sealing holes and cracks in your house. Always keep discarded food in garbage bags tied tightly, and in rodent proof containers.
In 1997, deadly bird flu arose in poultry markets of Hong Kong. The slaughter of 1.5 million chickens halted the virus before it evolved and learned how to spread from person to person.
Viral pathogens are known to possess the power to jump from one animal to another, and as seen with COVID-19, from animal to person, and even from person to animal. Bacteria and viruses, that are lethal to one creature can evolve quickly and infect another. Many viruses are found in wild animals. Wild animals should be kept that way- wild.
7. Avoid Touching Face, Eyes, Nose, and Mouth
We use our hands countless times each day, and we touch many surfaces. Work counters, telephones, elevator buttons, gas pumps- all these surfaces can contain viral viruses. As always, practicing good hygiene is crucial to staying well, but it is especially imperative right now as we find ourselves in a global pandemic.
When we touch our eyes, nose, and mouth with our hands, we transfer these viruses inside our bodies. Once inside the body, the virus located and hijacks cells and the person is infected. Always wash your hands after using the bathroom, before and after preparing food, and when entering the house after being out somewhere. But still get into the habit of not touching your face.
8. Give Your Immune System A Boost
How do you boost your immune system to help ward off infections? Stay active, don’t stress, and get an adequate amount of sleep.
Regular physical activity can boost and strengthen your immune system. The boost to your immune system can help your body fight off viruses and infections. Health studies suggest that regular exercise strengthens a person’s ability to fight disease and infection at the age of 80, the same as a person half or even a quarter of that age.
When a person is stressed out, their ability to fight antigens is reduced, and corticosteroid, the stress hormone, suppresses the effectiveness of their immune system.
And finally, your body requires sleep in order to fight infectious diseases. The infection-fighting antibodies and cells in an individual’s body are reduced when they don’t get an adequate amount of sleep.
9. Eat Healthy￼
According to health experts, 80% of your immune system is in the gut. When we eat healthy, we are increasingly able to fight off infections faster.
Studies show that an individual’s immune system is strengthened when they consume a healthy diet. Many dietitians and doctors recommend the Mediterranean diet to their patients, to help prevent disease. The Mediterranean diet is founded on plant based foods; fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, healthy fats, moderate amounts of fish and dairy, and very little amounts of red and white meat.
10. When Symptoms Are Severe, Contact Your Physician
Many viral infections will go away on their own, but some will not. For example, a common cold and influenza usually go away after the virus has run its course, but other viruses like Ebola and HIV/AIDS does not and requires treatment to save the affected patient’s life.
Sometimes even with common viral infections such as influenza, there can be life threatening complications. The infected person can develop a bacterial infection in addition to their viral infection, and develop a respiratory illness leading to pneumonia.
The novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, exhibits a few universal symptoms. They include, but are not limited to:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Stay home and isolate yourself
If you think you may have contracted Coronavirus, the CDC recommends the following steps:
- Stay in touch with your doctor
- Wear a face mask if you are sick
- Inform your doctor prior to coming in
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you begin to experience severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, persistent chest pain, new confusion, or bluish face and lips, you must seek emergency medical attention immediately. For more information on the novel Coronavirus, visit cdc.gov.