COVID-19: What You Need to Know

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By Penelope Carlevato, RN

Vacations cancelled, jittery investors, quarantined cruise ships, fear of bubble wrap, a rush on hand sanitizers and rationed toilet paper (if you can find it)…these are just a few of the numerous headlines due to the recent outbreak of a new virus. Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, is causing significant anxiety, panic and confusion around the world. Health organizations now fear we may have a pandemic situation, meaning it has the potential to spread worldwide.

With almost every news program reporting on the outbreak, how do we cope and respond to this crisis? Let’s take a look at the risks involved and those most likely to catch this virus.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is issuing the general public an abundance of information to stay safe and uninfected. Other agencies are also getting out the latest bits of advice and reporting confirmed cases around the world. The problem seems to be conflicting accounts and sometimes shocking numbers to substantiate the stories.

World Health Organization defines coronaviruses (CoV) as a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as: SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) that caused a massive epidemic in 2002-2003, and MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) that caused panic in 2012.

According to the CDC, some coronaviruses that infect animals have become able to infect humans and then spread between people, but this is rare. SARS and MERS are examples of diseases caused by coronaviruses that originated in animals and spread to people. This is what is suspected to have happened with the virus that caused the current outbreak of COVID-19, which was first detected in Wuhan, China.

The virus spreads quite quickly with the incubation period between two and 14 days, which allows those infected with the virus to go undetected. Also, because it is a virus, antibiotics are not effective. The first signs of infection are similar to that of the common cold or flu including: respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, general malaise, and some mild G.I. distress. The virus must enter your body through your nose, mouth or eyes. Therefore, it’s very important to keep your hands clean and avoid contact with your face.

Much like any other respiratory disease, a cold or the flu, the infection spreads mainly from the droplets discharged when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. If you are in a high-risk category, you should take extra precautions to protect yourself just as you would with any other flu virus. High-risk categories include: young children, those over 65 years of age, pregnant women, and people who have chronic illnesses.

Since hand-washing is the main deterrent to the spread of this virus, I found The Denver Art Museum’s method to help you wash correctly very timely. As soon as the water in the bathroom sink is turned on, Row, Row, Row Your Boat starts playing and lasts for about 20 seconds, then stops. Many people are also now singing Happy Birthday twice, which is about 20 seconds, the perfect amount of time for effective hand-washing. Maybe with this scare affecting our world, we can copy this idea and sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat, or Happy Birthday every time we wash our hands. This technique is very useful for all of us, kids and adults, who think a quick swish under the water is enough.

What other preventative practices can we implement?

  • Use hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol.
  • Practice social distancing.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Avoid handshakes and hugs.
  • Use a disinfectant to wipe down surfaces with a high-hand use, like handrails, doorknobs, phones, faucets and grocery cart handles.
  • Eat well and stay hydrated.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue. (Masks do very little to protect individuals from breathing in the virus, but may have some value in being a reminder not to touch our face.)

Increasing awareness, gathering accurate information, and putting things into perspective are good ways to protect ourselves from falling into fear-based panic and anxiety. Our society relies heavily on technology, and most of us have a severe case of information overload from every news outlet.

How do we cope when our lives have been turned upside down? None of us have ever experienced something of this magnitude. It’s difficult to imagine everyone worldwide is experiencing the same loss of personal freedoms and disruption of our daily lives. These difficult times can make us see where we currently are in respect to our priorities. We can evaluate what really matters, and what doesn’t matter. I know I am finding that so many activities I was involved with were not that important.

My husband has been retired for several years, so we were together 24/7, but it wasn’t like this 24/7! We had our own interests and activities, but now we are combining them and so far, so good. So what can we do to cheer ourselves and stay positive?

Everyone must keep vigilant with staying put and find ways to survive to stay healthy, both mentally and physically. With tight restrictions on our daily activities, it is hard for many to keep things in perspective. What can you do to take positive action for you and your family? Here are some ideas that we are doing to feel better and stay healthy, both physically and emotionally, while stuck at home:

  1. Maintain a routine.
  2. Read the book you haven’t had time to read.
  3. Work in your garden and get a jump start on a spring planting.
  4. Put a puzzle together as a family.
  5. Color in coloring books—child and adult.
  6. Make a tent in your living room with blankets and “camp out.”
  7. Got a Nerf gun? Have some fun with family members.
  8. Clean out your junk drawer.
  9. Take walks in the neighborhood.
  10. Bake your favorite cookies.
  11. Make your bed every morning.
  12. Write letters to grandparents and older adults (even if they have Internet).
  13. Get dressed and don’t stay in your pajamas all day.
  14. Do your makeup and hair every morning (or shave).
  15. Pray for others and yourselves.
  16. Eat well; cut back on junk food and carbs.
  17. Stay hydrated; drink lots of tea, water, lemon water and juices.
  18. Work out every day.
  19. Stay connected with family and friends with FaceTime or Zoom.
  20. Continue meetings via social media.

Let’s keep things in perspective and carry out the necessary tasks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and all infectious diseases. We owe it to ourselves and our families. Stay Calm and Carry On!

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