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COVID-19: What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself

If you’re wondering how to protect yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. Right now, people across the world are doing everything they can to reduce their chances of contracting the novel coronavirus.

When it comes to protecting yourself and your loved ones from the coronavirus, the truth is you probably already know how! Doctors and scientists suggest people take the same precautions they recommend during flu season.

However, there are some major differences to consider between these two viruses.

You may have heard people on TV or the internet comparing the novel coronavirus to the seasonal flu. While some symptoms between the two are similar, COVID-19 is proving to be more dangerous, especially for certain populations such as in those older than 65 and in individuals with compromised immune systems due to chronic medical conditions.

If you want to protect yourself—and possibly save someone’s life, whether a family member or someone you don’t know, here’s what you need to know:

What Is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the disease caused by novel coronavirus. It is entitled a “novel” coronavirus because it is a new virus strain from an existing class of coronaviruses. This is important to consider as there are currently no available vaccines or antivirals to combat COVID-19. The virus can cause inflammation and damage to the lungs, affecting the air sacs (alveoli) that transfer oxygen from the air to your blood. According to the CDC, symptoms include:

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or trouble breathing or pain in the chest, seek immediate medical attention.

Should I Be Worried?

Most people who contract the virus won’t even show symptoms, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take this seriously. As mentioned, the elderly and those who are immunocompromised are exceptionally vulnerable to this virus, as are those with underlying health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. You shouldn’t panic but being proactive will help to prevent the virus from spreading, possibly protecting someone you love and to do your part to control the spread which will help us all resume our typical lives.. The more precautions you take, the better off everyone will be.

Actions You Can Take

If you want to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, here’s what you can do:

Wash Your Hands

Using warm water and soap, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds multiple times a day. Don’t feel like counting to 20? Try singing a song! For instance, singing “Happy Birthday” three times is about 20 seconds. Of course, if you get sick of singing the birthday song, you have plenty of alternatives. Just pick a part of your favorite song that lasts the proper amount of time.

If you don’t have access to a sink or soap, you can use hand sanitizer, but know that washing your hands with regular soap and water is always the better choice.

Social Distancing

Right now, most people are stuck indoors, and that’s a good thing. The only way that this thing spreads is if we let it travel from one person to the next. If you are off from work or school, don’t use this as an excuse to go hang out with your friends. If you do go out for essentials like groceries, make sure that you stay at least six feet away from others and avoid touching your face.

Disinfect Everything

The novel coronavirus has the ability to live on various surfaces for at least two to three days. However, it’s no match for an approved disinfectant. To make sure your disinfectant is effective against the coronavirus, check that it’s EPA registration number can be found on this list.

What to Do If You Have Symptoms

If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19 and think you might have the virus, it’s important that you know what to do in various situations.

For situations in which you are having difficulty breathing, call your doctor to ask what you should do. If you think you are having a medical emergency, call 911.

If you think that you have been exposed to the coronavirus and you either don’t have symptoms or you only have mild symptoms, you should self-isolate for up to two weeks or until the symptoms pass.

What you do during this pandemic matters. The more preventative measures you take, the lower the risk for everyone else. We’re all in this together, so let’s make sure that we are taking care of each other!

Also please check the CDC website periodically for up to the date information during this rapidly evolving pandemic.

COVID-19 and the Novel-Coronavirus

March 25, 2020

Shawn M. Cole, M.D., M.H.A.

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