Coronavirus outbreak: How can you protect yourself against the virus?

As of Wednesday, 3 positive cases have been confirmed in Kerala, and many others across the country are awaiting their test results.
Coronavirus outbreak: How can you protect yourself against the virus?
Coronavirus outbreak: How can you protect yourself against the virus?

Amidst fears that the coronavirus spread may be turning into a global pandemic, there has been a lot of information as well as misinformation on what precautions people can take and whether coronavirus can be cured with ‘home remedies.’ TNM has put together a guide so that you know what to do to protect yourself from the virus.

How does coronavirus spread?

The Center for Diseases Control (CDC) says coronavirus can spread via person-to-person contact. It is believed that droplets, which are produced when an individual with an infection sneezes or coughs, the droplets can fall on someone nearby and may potentially be inhaled by the healthy individual.

Generally, viruses may also spread to someone from any surface that the virus is on. For example, if an infected individual sneezes and the virus is transmitted via droplets onto a table, there is a possibility that a healthy person who comes in contact with the table surface could contract the infection. However, this is still debated as some scientists believe that a virus could only be transmitted in such a manner in a short time period.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses which largely infect animals, however, in the recent past, these viruses have been adapting and mutating, rendering them zoonotic viruses, meaning that they can be transmitted to humans from animals. Previously two other strains of the virus were found to be responsible for the 2002 SARS pandemic and the sporadic cases of MERS seen in the Middle East. The virus responsible for SARS was transmitted to humans from civet cats, while the virus responsible for MERS came from camels.

The novel (or new) strain of the coronavirus, which has recently emerged from China’s Wuhan province is one which was only recently detected in humans and has left scientists with several unanswered questions about its origins. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) there are several such known coronaviruses which currently circulate between animals, but have yet to affect humans.

What can you do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe?

Wash your hands

Frequently washing your hands can help keep the infection from spreading. Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer may also offer protection against the virus. When handling animals and/or livestock, it is best to wash hands before and after touching the animals. Hand wash must be done properly and as advised by the WHO. If hands are visibly dirty, wash them with soap and water for at least 40 seconds. If there is no visible grime, a hand rub using a sanitizer for at least 20 seconds is advised.

Hand washing technique, source: WHO

Cover your mouth/nose when coughing or sneezing

Coughing and sneezing will spread viral particles through air droplets. Hygienic sneezing and coughing measures will help curb the spread of the virus from an infected individual to others in their environment. Using certain types of masks will help prevent the spread of the virus as they may act as a barrier against some pathogens.

Seek medical help if sick

Rather than waiting for any symptoms to get worse, at the first signs of an illness, it is best to visit a doctor as a precaution. Furthermore, if you or any you know has a recent travel history to the affected areas, health officials have advised that you stay under home quarantine for a period of two weeks (the rough incubation period of the virus).

Food hygiene

Wash all fruits and vegetables properly before eating as a precaution. Individuals who cook meat should ensure that it is cooked thoroughly. Take safety measures to ensure that no “cross-contamination” occurs when cooking meats and non-meats.

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