5 things you can do right now to protect yourself from coronavirus

Man coughing

With more confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in South Carolina and across the United States, it’s important to take steps to prevent yourself from becoming ill.
There is no vaccine for the coronavirus, a disease first discovered in China in December that has quickly spread to other countries. Many of those who are diagnosed with this new coronavirus have mild symptoms that include fever, cough and shortness of breath and can safely recover at home. But older individuals and those with chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease are believed to be at greater risk for serious complications.

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Health officials are still learning about this new virus. It is thought to be transmitted mainly through respiratory droplets from an infected person, which can be spread to others through sneezing and coughing.
“Right now, we believe COVID-19 coronavirus is spread similar to a cold or the flu,” say Dr. Roxanne Latimer, a family medicine physician at Tidelands Health Medical Park at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach.
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to coronavirus. Here are five ways to protect yourself:

Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face

It sounds simple, but frequently washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.
Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
If your hands are visibly dirty, hand sanitizer won’t do. Find soap and water to wash up.
Be sure to avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. If you have touched a surface that has been exposed to coronavirus then touch your face, you could become sick.
The virus also can be transmitted through handshakes or high-fives. That’s why it’s so important to frequently wash your hands.

Avoid crowds and keep your distance

Many concerts, sporting events and large gatherings already have been canceled. Schools also are shutting down or shifting to virtual learning to help prevent the spread.
The federal government has recommended against gatherings of 10 or more people and is encouraging older individuals and people with serious underlying health conditions to stay home.
If you must go out, be sure to keep a distance – usually about six feet – between you and others, avoid those who are sick and practice other healthy hygiene habits such as frequently washing your hands.

Clean and disinfect

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces regularly. Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will do the job. Be sure to disinfect countertops, tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, phones, keyboards and other surfaces that are touched frequently.

Protect others

If you are feeling sick with fever, cough and shortness of breath, stay home. Call your health care provider and follow the provider’s instructions. In an emergency, call 911.
Also, be sure to cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue then throw the used tissue in the trash. And wash your hands frequently.
If you are sick, the CDC recommends you wear a facemask when you are around other people. Individuals who are not sick do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick.

Prepare – but don’t panic

There’s no need to rush out and buy all the hand sanitizer you can find. But be smart by making precautionary preparations, especially if you are at a higher risk.
The CDC encourages those at a higher risk of serious complications from coronavirus to make sure you have extra necessary medications on hand in case you need to stay at home for a prolonged period. Plan on having a two-week supply. Contact your health care provider for additional refills, if needed.
Also be sure you have adequate supplies. This includes groceries and over-the-counter medications and medical supplies such as tissues to treat fever and other symptoms. Most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home. Be prepared, but there’s no need to overstock.
“At the end of the day, all of us know how to try to avoid infection,” Dr. Latimer says. “Just remember to be very diligent about hand hygiene and not touching your face. And use common sense.”

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