Do NOT go to the ER unless you are severely sick or have trouble breathing; instead, call your Health Care Provider and inform them if:
- You have recently traveled abroad along with the country you traveled to.
- You have been around anyone that either had or may presently have the virus.
- You live in a community with a known outbreak (Kirkland, WA or New Rochelle, NY for example).
- You have a Fever above 99.0 degrees Fahrenheit.
- You have experienced severe shortness of breath.
Take over-the-counter cough, cold, fever related medicine for common cold-associated symptoms
If you are sick and have a fever over 99 degrees Fahrenheit, the best practice is to self-quarantine until you have been evaluated by a health care provider through telehealth or an in-person visit.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling Americans that they should be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in their communities.
But what does preparedness look like in practice? The short answer: Don’t panic — but do prepare.
That “means not only contingency planning but also good old-fashioned preparedness planning for your family,” says Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University. In other words, what you would do in case of a possible hurricane or another natural disaster.
The reason to stock up on certain products now isn’t so much to avoid potential shortages in the event of an outbreak, but to practice what experts call social distancing. Basically, you want to avoid crowds to minimize your risk of catching the disease. If COVID-19 is spreading in your community, the last place you want to be is in line at a crowded grocery store or drugstore.
We spoke with Katz and other health experts about common-sense things you can do to be ready if the virus reaches your community.
If you take daily medications — for example, blood pressure pills — make sure you have enough to last a couple of weeks, suggests Katz, as long as you can get approval for an extended supply from your insurance provider.
Products Worth Buying
Also worth pre-buying: fever reducers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, says Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a pediatrician with Columbia University Medical Center.
Think about adding enough nonperishable foods to your pantry to carry you through for a couple of weeks, adds Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security.
Bracho-Sanchez suggests having on hand your go-to sickbed foods, like chicken or vegetable broth and crackers in case of illness, as well as hydrating drinks such as Gatorade and Pedialyte for kids (though so far, kids seem less vulnerable to COVID-19). That’s because if you do get sick, you want to be ready to ride it out at home if need be. So far, 80 percent of COVID-19 cases have been mild, and have taken the form of moderate cold or flu symptoms. Hand washing for at least 20 seconds is a key prevention method, and is most effective when performed with some form of antibacterial soap.
Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center, says what we know from other coronaviruses is that most household cleansers — such as bleach wipes or alcohol — will kill them.
Even wiping down surfaces with soap and water should do the trick, he says, because this coronavirus has a lipid envelope around it — like a coat that keeps the RNA inside the viral particle. And soap is a detergent that can break down lipids. “We use them to take grease and oil, which is a lipid, off our dishes,” he notes.
If COVID-19 does start circulating in your community or there’s someone sick at home, plan on cleaning surfaces that get touched frequently — such as kitchen counters and bathroom faucets — several times a day, says Dr. Trish Perl, chief of the infectious disease division at UT Southwestern Medical Center. That advice, she says, comes from studies on other diseases “where they’ve shown that if you do clean up the environment, you can actually decrease the amount of virus that is on hard surfaces significantly.”
What About Face Masks?
Generally, they are not protective unless you are the one sick, in which case you should wear one to protect your friends and family. Ordinary surgical masks are ineffective. N95 respirators are effective by filtering out 95 percent of airborne particles HOWEVER THEY NEED TO BE FITTED SPECIFICALLY TO EACH PERSON. Otherwise the N95 mask is not as effective.
According to the World Health Organization, the only people who should be wearing masks are healthy people who are taking care of someone who is sick, or sick people who are coughing or sneezing when they are in public. “If people are going out and buying face masks, that’s not necessary,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said. “In fact, we need those masks for the people who should be using them, which are healthcare workers taking care of patients.” This is to avoid incurring a shortage in N95 mask supply.
The most accurate conclusions on fatality rates from COVID-19 can be made from the existing data resulting from the original outbreak in China.
Travel updates: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/
NJ Department of Health: 1-800-222-1222 or https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/ncov.shtml
World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019