The coronavirus is here. “We have arrived at a point where individuals should begin focusing on the outbreak,” says Catharine Paules, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Penn State Health. Individuals do not need to change what they are doing daily, but they should be on the lookout for the outbreak and pay attention to what the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health advise them. “

Fatalities and the Infected

A new virus is scary, and COVID-19 can be deadly, but so far, it has only been fatal in a small percentage of people. Currently, the death rate is estimated at 5.8% in Wuhan, China, and 3.4% in the rest of the world. The mortality rate from MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), another coronavirus, is 34.4%, while the flu death rate is approximately 0.1%. However, tens of thousands of people die annually from the flu, but not from MERS. The flu virus is much more contagious: up to 10% of the population is projected to contract the flu yearly, even with an available vaccine.

COVID-19 appears to be as contagious as the flu, and there is currently no vaccine against the virus, which means that many people can become infected. Some of those people are likely to die from the disease. However, many more people infected with the virus will have relatively mild symptoms or even no symptoms and will be able to recover at home. So while people shouldn’t be freaking out about the virus, they should do everything they can to prevent a full-blown outbreak.

How might you shield yourself from getting the coronavirus? 

Basic sanitation and disease prevention strategies are your best option, as with any virus.

  1. Washing your hands well, at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water, can kill the virus.
  2. A pinch of alcohol-based hand sanitizers will also work.
  3. Also, avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes so that if the virus is on your hands, it cannot enter your body.
  4. Chlorine and alcohol-based cleaners are also effective in destroying the virus and are suitable for use on potentially infected surfaces.

Similar to the flu, COVID-19 is believed to be transmitted primarily through drops in coughs and sneezes. Those drops can travel up to six feet, so if someone close to you coughs or sneezes, stay away! You don’t want those drops to fall on you or touch your nose or mouth.

The virus can survive for at least a couple of hours and possibly longer on surfaces or objects, which can then touch and become infected. If you have been in public, a good practice is to wash your hands as soon as you enter before eating or touching your face.

Surgical Masks

What about the surgical masks you see everyone wear? Experts say there may be some benefit, but how much is unclear. And if you misuse it or have facial hair, the protection offered by a mask is practically nil.

“Common surgical masks do not prevent us from contracting a viral infection. There are no notable scientific data to praise the use of masks, “says William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. 

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