Practical Tips to Prepare for the Coronavirus

Keep calm, and wash your hands

Dana G Smith
Elemental
Published in
6 min readFeb 28, 2020

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Photo: Isabel Pavia/Getty Images

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CCoronavirus is here. “We’ve reached a point at the outbreak where people need to start paying attention,” says Catharine Paules, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Penn State Health. “Do I think people need to change what they’re doing in daily life right this second? No. But I think that people need to be watching the outbreak very carefully and paying attention to things that the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health are advising them.”

A new virus is scary, and COVID-19 can be deadly, but so far it’s only been lethal in a small percentage of people. Currently, the death rate is estimated at 2.3% in Wuhan, China and 0.7% for the rest of the world. For comparison, the death rate for MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), another coronavirus, is 34.4%, while the death rate for flu is roughly 0.1%. However, tens of thousands of people in the U.S. die annually from the flu but not from MERS because the influenza virus is much more contagious — up to 10% of the population are projected to get the flu every year, and that’s even with a vaccine available.

COVID-19 appears to be as contagious as the flu, and there’s currently no vaccine for the virus, meaning it’s possible a large number of people could become infected. Some of those people will likely die from the disease, however, many more people infected with the virus will have relatively mild or even no symptoms and be able to recover at home. So, while people shouldn’t freak out about the virus, they should do everything they can to prevent a full-fledged outbreak.

Here’s what you can do to prepare:

How can you protect yourself from catching the coronavirus?

Just like with any virus, basic sanitation and disease prevention strategies are your best bet. It’s not sexy, but washing your hands thoroughly — at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water — really can kill the virus. In a pinch, alcohol-based hand sanitizers will work, too. Also, avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes so that if the virus is on your hands it can’t get into your body.

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Dana G Smith
Elemental

Health and science writer • PhD in 🧠 • Words in Scientific American, STAT, The Atlantic, The Guardian • Award-winning Covid-19 coverage for Elemental