Everyone in the world has now learned about the much-publicised new coronavirus. Because of the major media attention it’s getting and the way the virus seems to be spreading around the globe, there have been many reports that use scare tactics or contain misinformation. At this time, based on advice from medical professionals worldwide, there is no reason to panic. But it is important for everyone to become more cautious and to take steps to remain free from infection. Here is some basic information about the illness, as well as nine tips on how to protect yourself from coronavirus.
What is coronavirus?
COVID-19 was announced as the official name for this new outbreak in February by the World Health Organization (WHO). But what is COVID-19? The name comes from CO for corona, VI for virus, and D for disease (the 19 comes from 2019, when the outbreak first occurred). There are actually many types of coronaviruses that can cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses, but COVID-19 is a strain that had not been found in humans before last year. Some coronaviruses occur in infected animals and are transferred to humans (which is the case for COVID-19 and for the SARS virus).
How is coronavirus spread?
At this time, COVID-19 is thought to be spread from person to person, typically those in close contact with each other (within about 1.8 metres). It’s spread through respiratory droplets produced when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes; these droplets can end up in the mouths or noses of nearby people or can be inhaled into the lungs. It’s also possible that a person can get sick by touching a surface or object that has been touched by an infected person and then by touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.
People are thought to be the most contagious when their symptoms are the strongest. However, experts believe some of the spread is occurring before people exhibit symptoms. It’s believed COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China, but cases have now popped up in Italy, Iran, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and many more countries.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The main symptoms typically appear within two to 14 days after exposure and generally include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. People who have severe chronic medical conditions (such as Lyme disease) or illnesses that affect the heart, lungs or kidneys, appear to be at a higher risk. Elderly people are also more at risk because they’re more likely to have pre-existing health conditions or weaker immune systems.
Is COVID-19 deadly?
Yes, there have been reports of deaths from coronavirus around the globe. However, the most likely scenario is that people who contract COVID-19 will recover. The recovery rate depends a great deal on a person’s general health or other coexisting conditions. According to WHO, about 3.4% of coronavirus patients die from the disease (versus about 0.1–0.2% of deaths from the seasonal flu).
How to protect yourself from coronavirus
There are several steps you can take to limit your potential contact with COVID-19 and to avoid getting sick.
1. Wash your hands and use hand sanitiser frequently.
Wash your hands with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds frequently throughout the day or whenever you’re touched public surfaces, handled money, shaken someone’s hand, etc. Make sure to also clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces as well. (Don’t forget to moisturise your skin more often, too; frequent hand-washing and alcohol-based sanitisers can be quite drying.)
2. Avoid large public gatherings if you can.
You’re more at risk to contract COVID-19 if you’re in close proximity to people who have been infected. If you’re worried, skip events or outings where you’ll be around large groups of people.
3. Stay away from people who are sick.
Try to steer clear of anyone who’s ill (especially if you know they could potentially have contracted COVID-19). If someone appears sick, try and stand at least one metre away, although as much as three metres is preferable. To help minimise exposure, stay home if you’re sick with respiratory symptoms, and if you are coughing or sneezing, always remember to do so into your elbow or shoulder or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue.
4. Avoid touching your nose, mouth, eyes and face.
COVID-19 (and many other viruses) are spread when respiratory droplets are transferred to your hands and then your face. You basically spread the virus to yourself, so refrain from touching your face if at all possible!
5. Get regular sleep.
You can also limit your susceptibility to COVID-19 and other diseases by making sure your immune system is as robust and healthy as possible. Your immune system can work better if you’re getting proper rest, so aim for at least 8–10 hours of sleep a night.
6. Drink plenty of water.
Making sure you’re drinking enough water is crucial for a healthy immune system. You can also add in green or herbal teas to keep your fluid intake up.
7. Keep up with a gentle daily exercise routine.
Even something as simple as a short walk or an easy yoga practice can help boost your immune system and fight off infection.
8. Eat healthily.
Having a diet that’s nutritious, balanced and full of nutrients, vitamins and minerals is essential for improved immunity. Eat a rainbow of different-coloured fruits and vegetables, and you’ll be on the right track.
9. Take specific vitamins/minerals.
Some vitamins/minerals and supplements can be a great way to ensure you have a healthy immune system. Vitamins A, D, C, E, B6 and B12, as well as folate, zinc, iron, copper and selenium, can boost your immune system. Although taking supplements or adding foods rich in these things to your diet is not a promise that you won’t contract COVID-19, boosting your vitamin intake is a great way to prepare your body against disease by ensuring your immune system (and other bodily processes) are at an optimal functioning level.
Taking some of the steps listed above can possibly help you avoid getting sick and just might provide you with some peace of mind as you continue to hear about COVID-19 in the news. It’s important to remember to stay informed and consult your doctor if you start to have any coronavirus-related symptoms. It’s always better to get checked out by a medical professional if you have any worries.