COVID-19: How to protect yourself from coronavirus

The coronavirus comes from a family of viruses that has been known to cause the common cold, MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome)

Where does this coronavirus come from?

The coronavirus circulates between animals, whereas, some of these viruses have the ability to transfer between animals and humans.

How can you protect yourself from the coronavirus?

The coronavirus typically presents with respiratory symptoms. Ways to protect yourself from the coronavirus include basic hand hygiene, for example, washing your hands with soap and water, moreover, sneezing into your elbow when you have to sneeze and respiratory hygiene. Ways to protect yourself against animals potentially carrying the virus would be to avoid unnecessary contact with animals. However, if you have been in contact with animals, it is necessary to wash your hand thoroughly after coming in contact with animals. Furthermore, it also needs to be made sure that all meat is cooked thoroughly before consuming. Currently, there is no treatment for coronavirus, however, the symptoms can be treated.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the world needs to be more prepared for the coronavirus outbreak, since it can be a potential pandemic. It is important to remain realistic, however, also alert of the risks posed by COVID-19.

You need to immediately report to your nearest health care facility if,

  • You have returned either from China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau and have shortness of breath, cough or fever, even if it is mild.

  • You have returned from Italy, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos or Myanmar and have shortness of breath, cough or fever, no matter how mild.

  • You have returned from Tenerife, even if you are not presenting with any symptoms.

  • You have returned from special care zones in South Korea or Italy, even if you are not presenting with any symptoms.

  • You have returned from Hubei or Wuhan, China, even if you are not presenting with any symptoms.

  • You have been in contact with a person who is a confirmed case of coronavirus.

However, if you are concerned that you have the coronavirus, do not visit your GP or pharmacist. They do not have a facility in place to isolate you and prevent the infection from spreading to others.

The World Health Organization continues to monitor the progress of coronavirus and have officially declared the risk of this international public emergency, coronavirus COVID-19 as very high. According to latest reports of Public Health England Guidance, the risk levels of coronavirus remain moderate in the UK. However, the WHO has warned the risk of COVID-19 becoming pandemic is growing. Although, countries can still take proper measures to prevent this from happening.

“We still believe that we can contain the virus, and what China is doing – serious measures in Wuhan and Hubei province and others, hammering at the source – can help us to contain it,” explained TedrosAdhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, at a press conference.

“Other countries should also take this very, very seriously. Although the window of opportunity is narrowing to contain the outbreak, we still have a chance to contain it but we have to prepare at the same time for any eventualities because this outbreak could go in any direction.

Personal Risk

Like any other virus, there are many measures you can take to reduce the risk of contracting coronavirus COVID-19. The measures taken will also reduce your risk of catching the flu or common cold, both of which spread by sneeze droplets and cough.

  • It is important to carry tissues all the time and use them to cover your mouth and nose when you have to sneeze. After using the tissue, bin it and wash your hands with a sanitizer. Dispose the tissue preferably in a bin with a lid. If you do not have a tissue available, rather than coughing on your hands, cough and sneeze on your elbow.

  • Wash your hands frequently. The WHO has a hand washing recommendation, use hot water and soap. In case, you cannot wash your hands frequently, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol and wash your hands at the earliest opportunity.

  • Avoid contact with people who are not well.

Prevention and Treatment (CDC)

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

  • Stay home when you are sick.

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.

    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to  others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

  • Wash your hands often 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 soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty

For information about handwashing, see CDC’s Handwashing website

For information specific to healthcare, see CDC’s Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. CDC does have specific guidance for travelers.

Will wearing a surgical mask protect you from the virus?

Wearing a facemask outside of a hospital makes little to no difference, because they need to be worn and removed correctly. In addition, the mask needs to be changed frequently and disposed safely after use. Moreover, there has been a shortage of face masks around the world because of the rising demands of public for face masks. Currently, there is no vaccine for the coronavirus, however, a team of scientists across the globe are in the process of developing a vaccine for protecting against COVID-19. In addition to this, there is also no specific treatment for coronavirus – however, many people recover from mild infections following fluids and rest. Symptoms need to be managed and treated if a patient develops pneumonia.

How do you protect yourself from the coronavirus?

Before protecting yourself from the virus, it is important to be able to spot the signs and symptoms of a coronavirus infection, so if needed, it can be acted upon quickly. The coronavirus presents with symptoms similar to the common cold, moreover, has flu-like and respiratory symptoms. It is very unlikely that you are infected if you do not have fever. However, some people may be infected and pass on the virus without showing any symptoms. A runny nose and sneezing typically are not symptoms of the virus.

The proportion of infected people with the following symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection is, according to a study published in The Lancet:

Travelers should check latest guidelines before travelling. However, currently, people are advised against travelling to certain regions including the city Deagu in South Korea and Hubei Province in China. The travelling advice is being updated cautiously and travelers are advised to travel only if it is essential to travel.

COVID-19 Risk Assessment by Country

Widespread sustained (ongoing) transmission and restrictions on entry to the United States CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations.

Entry of foreign nationals from these destinations has been suspended.

Widespread sustained (ongoing) transmission

CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations:

Sustained (ongoing) community transmission

CDC recommends that older adults or those who have chronic medical conditions consider postponing travel to the following destinations:

Risk of limited community transmission

Travelers should practice usual precautions at the following destination:

Isolate yourself

One of the simplest ways to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus is to isolate anyone who is in a risk group. The virus has an incubation period of 2 weeks, this means that the symptoms would start to show within 14 days of the infection. However, some people may be able to carry the virus without showing any symptoms. Therefore, it is essential for people at a very high risk to isolate themselves even if they do not show any symptoms. To prevent the spread of the infection, some cities in the world have gone on lockdown, however, in the UK, only a certain risk group is being asked to self-isolate and take action to protect their families, friends and communities from catching the virus.

So far, the groups being told to isolate include:

  • People who are waiting for their test result of COVID-19

  • People who have been identified to be in close contact with someone with coronavirus.

  • Travelers who have returned from any of the areas with the coronavirus outbreak within a specific time frame, even those who are not displaying any symptoms.

What does self-isolation involve?

  • Stay at home

  • Do not go to school, work or public areas.

  • Do not use public transport, for example, taxis, tubes, trains or buses.

  • Avoid visitors to your home.

  • Ask family and friends to carry out errands on your behalf, including taking children to and from school, getting medication and shopping.

  • When deliveries are made, ask the delivery service to leave the delivery outside the door rather than handing it over to you.

Basic protective measures against the new coronavirus, according to WHO

Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through your national and local public health authority. COVID-19 is still affecting mostly people in China with some outbreaks in other countries. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others.

Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:

Wash your hands frequently

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

Maintain social distancing

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice respiratory hygiene

Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider

Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.

 Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading

  • Follow the guidance outlined above.

  • Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.

  • If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers. Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.

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