Since late December 2019, the coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV, has infected thousands of people in China and killed dozens of them. Despite strict quarantine rules for 50 million possibly affected people in that country, the virus has also managed to spread to other parts of the world, including Australia, France, and the United States. It is believed that the virus can lie dormant in its victims for up to two weeks, which means several people could be infected by the same carrier before he or she even knows about the illness.As the virus ramps up into a true epidemic and threatens to escalate to a pandemic state if the authorities do not act promptly, more and more people are beginning to worry about the threat of disease and how they can protect themselves and their families from harm. Experts are still trying to learn more about the transmissibility and severity of this virus, and in the meantime, the fear of the unknown is real for many of us.While experts report that the chance of infection is still low to moderate in most parts of the world, it never hurts to be cautious. Here are 10 things you can do to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe from the coronavirus during a potentially dangerous outbreak.Photo: Adobe Stock/9nong
1. Wash your handsWe know you’ve heard this a thousand times before, but that’s because it’s important. Make sure you wash your hands often, especially before preparing or eating food and after using the bathroom. Scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds before rinsing.2. Quit touching your faceYou increase your likelihood of contracting the coronavirus if you use your unwashed hands to touch your face, especially your eyes, nose, or mouth, which are prime routes for the virus to enter your body. Try to avoid touching your face (unless you wash your hands first) to keep from contracting the virus.Photo: Adobe Stock/Volodymyr Shevchuk
3. Avoid contact with sick individualsThe coronavirus is believed to be transmitted through respiratory droplets produced by an infected person who sneezes or coughs. These droplets can linger in the air and be breathed in or can land on surfaces and be transmitted by touch. Your best bet to avoid illness is to stay away from other people who may be ill.4. Clean frequently used surfacesCleaning the things you and your family touch frequently is another way to avoid contagious diseases. Remember to clean and disinfect surfaces like sinks, counters, door handles, railings, and light switches regularly. Cloth items, such as children’s lunch bags and backpacks, can be thrown in the washing machine or sprayed with disinfectant during flu season to keep them germ-free.Photo: Adobe Stock/Andrey Cherkasov
5. Wear a mask if you want toIf you have to be near someone who is ill, or if you are ill and have to be around others, you can wear a medical mask to help keep other people’s germs out or your own germs in. This is an optional step, especially in low-risk areas, but if you’re really concerned, a mask could be an extra layer of protection (although it’s certainly far from infallible). In China, healthcare workers are being urged to wear N95 respirators, which are more heavy-duty and airtight than surgical-style masks, but in most areas of the world, these masks remain unnecessary.6. Avoid traveling to infected areasBecause the virus can be spread before symptoms begin to show, it may be best to avoid traveling to locations where the coronavirus is known to have spread. These areas currently include parts of China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Macao, Malaysia, Nepal, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Singapore, Australia, Germany, France, Canada, and the United States. There are no travel bans at this time, but the State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a warning against travel to China at this time.Photo: Adobe Stock/thanakorn
7. Know the symptoms to look forThe more you know about the coronavirus, the better you can be prepared to do something about it when you spot it either in yourself or in someone else. Spreading knowledge about the virus can help contain it and make sure it’s treated swiftly in those who have it. Some symptoms of the coronavirus include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever, and an overall feeling of not being well. More severe coronavirus infections may result in pneumonia or bronchitis and may have more serious symptoms, such as high fever, cough with mucus, shortness of breath, and chest pain or tightness.8. Stay away from others while illChances are that if you get sick this season, you probably don’t have the coronavirus. All the same, it’s best to avoid giving your illness to anyone else by staying away from others, especially small children and the elderly, as much as possible for as long as symptoms persist.Photo: Adobe Stock/zinkevych
9. Cover your coughIf you have to be near others while you are sick (or even if you don’t), avoid spreading any illness by covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow every time you sneeze or cough. Then throw away the tissue and wash those hands again!10. If you believe you may have coronavirus, seek medical attentionThe coronavirus can be deadly, so as soon as you believe you may have it, you should avoid being near others who might catch it and should seek medical attention right away. It’s possible that you just have a simple cold or flu, but you won’t know until you get checked out.At this time, U.S. authorities have issued no travel bans and believe the chance of contracting the coronavirus is low for most Americans. For many of us, there is nothing to worry about, and there may never be anything to worry about with this virus; only time will tell. However, a little extra precaution certainly won’t hurt anyone. Use good common sense and personal hygiene and pay attention to news updates, and you should be just fine!