Protecting Yourself from Coronavirus: What You Need to Know

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
February 4, 2020
How Do I Protect Myself from Coronavirus

The coronavirus continues spreading worldwide and has already infected more than 60,414 people and claimed at least 1,370 lives. Although most cases (and deaths) occurred in mainland China, 15 cases have been confirmed in the United States.
Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak an international public health emergency. Since then, the United States began evacuating Americans from China, suspended most commercial flights to China and restricted entry into the United States from China.

“Keep in mind that not everyone diagnosed with coronavirus visited China,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “Americans are getting sick via person-to-person transmission. And not everyone carrying the virus has symptoms, so we need to be vigilant about taking precautions.”

Person-to-person transmission occurs via respiratory droplets. If you are within six feet of an infected person and they sneeze or cough, you risk droplets landing in your mouth or nose or inhaling them -- similar to influenza.  
“I want people to be responsible – not panicked,” says Kaminetsky. “Take precautions to prevent coronavirus but realize that there are 15 confirmed cases in the U.S.; yet, there’s already been 15 million influenza cases since the start of flu season last October.”

How to Protect Yourself from Coronavirus

You can lower your risk for contracting coronavirus (and the flu) by following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations:

  • Wash your hands throughout the day for at least 20 seconds and after using the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing and/or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be used if soap isn’t available.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.
  • Cover your mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing and then throw out the tissue.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly used germ ridden objects such as phones, pens, countertops and desks.

At this point, there isn’t any evidence that wearing face masks protects you. Many people wear masks improperly, rendering them ineffective. And if the mask gets wet, it’s permeable. 

How to Strengthen Your Immune System

Elderly adults, young children and people with chronic conditions who contract coronavirus have a greater risk for developing a serious infection such as bronchitis or pneumonia. But a strong immune system may help fend off the coronavirus and the secondary infections associated with it. Here are a few tips:

  • Get enough sleep – generally between seven and eight hours every night.
  • Get 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
  • Avoid vices such as alcohol and tobacco
  • Eat a healthy diet

Dozens of biotech labs are in the process of developing a vaccine for novel coronavirus 2019-nCOV, but nothing is expected to be ready for about a year. And once the vaccine is available, getting it distributed to physicians will be a complex process.

“Scientists understand how to develop and distribute mass quantities of flu shots; they’ve been doing it for decades,” Kaminetsky says. “But there’s a learning curve with new vaccines.”

In the meantime, if you’re experiencing coronavirus symptoms such as fever, cough and/or shortness of breath, call your doctor. A specific treatment for coronavirus doesn’t exist yet, but your doctor can provide care to help ease symptoms and control secondary infections.

If you don’t have a doctor, consider partnering with an MDVIP-affiliated physician. MDVIP doctors have the time and resources to work with you and develop personalized treatment plans. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health »  

Last update: February 13, 2020 1:55 pm

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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