Don't panic. Get the facts on the new strain of coronavirus so you can plan to keep yourself and your family safe.
Coronavirus Prevention Tips
At the time of this publication, there have been 289 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Florida, and 7,769 cases in the US.
COVID-19 has claimed seven lives in Florida and 115 lives total in the United States. Testing is still in its nascent stages.
To put it mildly, the entire globe is on alert. As of February 28, China, Italy, Iran, Japan, and South Korea are all on a Level 3 Travel Notice from the CDC, meaning all non-essential travel to these areas should be avoided.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when the news is churning with stories of the virus and its implications. So let’s keep it simple:
- Don’t panic.
- Stay informed.
- Take smart precautions.
Here, we’ll summarize what the virus is and advice from health professionals on what we can do to prevent spreading the virus.
Source: Johns Hopkins CSSE
What Is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause upper respiratory infections. While it hasn’t made headlines of this magnitude before, coronavirus itself has been around since the 1960s with several strains causing deadly respiratory illnesses since the early 2000s. If you’ve heard of SARS or MERS, you already know two types of coronavirus before this latest outbreak.
This particular virus is SARS-CoV-2, a strain of coronavirus. The disease it causes is called COVID-19. Like its sibling viruses, SARS-CoV-2 originated from bats and it leads to a serious respiratory infection. This current strain was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.
If we’ve seen similar viruses before, what’s the panic about? In short, it hasn’t been contained yet, we don’t have a vaccine, and because it’s a new virus, many people haven’t yet developed an immunity to it. Plus, it’s deadlier on average than the common flu. According to the New York Times, seasonal flu strains kill about 0.1 percent of infected people, whereas a new report on COVID-19 puts its death rate at 1.4 percent.
Both SARS and MERS caused similar panic, and containment happened with time. We aren’t there yet, but here’s what you need to know to stay safe.
Source: Johns Hopkins CSSE
What Are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?
Symptoms of coronavirus are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear between two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. If you are experiencing these symptoms, whether you are known to have been exposed to the virus or not, seek medical attention immediately.
How Does Coronavirus Spread?
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can be spread in a couple ways:
- Person to person. Coronavirus primarily spreads through an infected person’s coughing and sneezing. Anyone within a six-foot radius is likely to be exposed to the virus under these circumstances.
- Contact with contaminated surfaces. It is also possible to catch the virus by touching a surface where the viral particles have landed after a cough or sneeze. If you then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes, you may get sick. The virus may be able to live on surfaces for days unless they are disinfected.
Both SARS and MERS can live on metal, glass, or plastic for up to nine days. We are still learning about this strain of coronavirus and how long it can live on these surfaces (as well as on money).
Though people are most contagious when they are the sickest, the CDC states some spread might be possible before people show symptoms. The virus is said to be community spread – meaning many infected folks in an affected area are not sure how or where they caught the illness.
Florida and the Coronavirus
As we mentioned earlier, there are 18 positive cases in Florida at the time of this writing. The current Florida cases of COVID-19 span Santa Rosa, Hillsborough, and Manatee counties. You can stay current on the cases as they unfold via Florida’s Department of Health.
The patients who have been recovering out of state had confirmed travel into China and were quarantined in other states as they returned to the US. While these are the known cases, 115 others are pending test results and 302 others are currently being monitored for coronavirus symptoms.
Source: Florida Department of Health
What Homeowners Can Do to Avoid Spreading Coronavirus
Again, there’s a difference between panic and preparedness. We advocate for the latter. These tips, summarized from the CDC, can help you and your family reduce the chance of illness and make a plan in case of an outbreak.
Practice Preventative Habits
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for 30 seconds – about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
- Wash your hands before cooking, eating, or coming into contact with community property and utensils.
- Use hand sanitizer with at least a 60 percent alcohol content when you aren’t near a sink.
- Use disinfectants to clean surfaces you come in contact with, including your phone, tables, desks, car doors, doorknobs, and doors.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Practice social distancing to help "flatten the curve" – this reduces the amount of infected folks at a single time so that our healthcare facilities and resources aren't strained. If you are able to stay at home, please do.
A note about cleaning products: products with ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, or bleach-based cleaners are effective at killing coronavirus found on many surfaces. Use an antibacterial detergent when washing clothes.
A note about hand washing versus hand sanitizer: The CDC confirms that a hand sanitizer with at least a 60 percent alcohol content is effective in killing coronavirus. The alcohol can break down the outer shell of the virus, allowing the sanitizer to kill the virus and reduce the risk of infection. However, hand sanitizer isn’t effective when your hands are dirty or greasy.
Ultimately, hand washing is a better option for preventing coronavirus, a cold, or the flu. Hand sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs. As a general rule, the CDC says to use soap and water when available for the best results.
Make a Plan for Your Household
- Talk with your family members about what to do if COVID-19 impacts your community.
- Consult with your healthcare providers if you or your family members are at higher risk of health complications from COVID-19. The CDC states older people and immunocompromised folks are most at risk.
- Make a list of organizations you can turn to for aid, information, and healthcare services in your community.
- Create an emergency contact list and make sure your family members have a copy.
- Choose a room in your home that can be used for family members who are sick so that infection doesn’t spread.
- Be prepared for changes in your routine when coronavirus impacts your community. Ask your employer about the ability to work remotely (if possible), and get in touch with schools to learn their plan for continuing education during a quarantine.
To stay up to date on the virus, check the CDC website often.