Coronavirus – here’s the public health advice on how to protect yourself

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Johnny Wood, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • More than 87,000 people worldwide have been infected.
  • The vast majority of cases have occurred in China.
  • For most people the impact is mild but vulnerable people are more at risk.
  • Effective hygiene and awareness of how the disease spreads can help.

Most people who have caught the COVID-19 coronavirus suffer little more than mild illness from which they soon recover. But for some – particularly the elderly and patients with existing health conditions – the consequences can be more severe.

Media headlines are abuzz with the story and there is a lot of information, and a good deal of misinformation, about the disease and what can be done to prevent it spreading.

 

Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk
Number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases worldwide.
Image: World Health Organization/Statista

The vast majority of the more than 87,000 cases recorded so far have been in China, where the virus started, although the outbreak has spread to almost 60 countries around the globe.

COVID-19 can be transmitted by people with the virus coughing or sneezing, releasing tiny contaminated droplets into the air, putting anyone within range in danger of inhaling them. These droplets can travel more than a metre from the infected person, allowing them to settle on any surfaces ready to be transferred to anyone that touches the surface.

The virus can live on some surfaces for several days. Data from the 2003 SARS outbreak, which was a similar illness to the latest coronavirus, showed the virus could contaminate plastered walls for up to a day and a half, plastic and stainless steel for 72 hours, and glass for 96 hours. So it’s likely the mobile phone, tablet or computer screen you are reading this on could harbour COVID-19 for up to four days, and be transferred to anyone touching the screen.

Effective hygiene is one of the most effective weapons to slow or prevent the virus spreading. Here are five things you can do to protect yourself and others.

1. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Our hands touch door handles, keyboards, taps and numerous other surfaces, so the virus could easily be picked up this way. Rubbing tired eyes or touching your nose or mouth could transfer the virus from your hands into your body.

2. Wash your hands regularly

Clean your hands thoroughly and often, using plenty of soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub to kill any virus on your hands. Scrub for at least 20 seconds, making sure you clean fingers, thumbs and palms.

3. Practise respiratory hygiene

If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue and throw it in the trash afterwards. If you don’t have a tissue, cough into the crook of your arm instead of using your hand. If possible, avoid coughing or sneezing near other people.

4. Maintain social distancing

Be aware of people around you and keep your distance from anyone coughing or sneezing. Stay at least 1 metre away to prevent inhaling the small liquid droplets sprayed by coughs and sneezes.

5. If any symptoms develop, seek medical care early

Stay at home if you feel unwell, and if you develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing seek medical attention. Call in advance of your visit, and follow the advice of your local health provider – they will have the most up-to-date information on the situation in your area.

And here are a couple of other important things to be aware of that can help efforts to contain the virus.

Stop buying face masks

Unless you are a healthcare professional, you probably don’t need to wear a face mask because of COVID-19. While masks may prevent a wearer with the disease coughing over others, it is unlikely to prevent the disease being transferred to someone healthy who is wearing a mask.

Panic buying has caused a huge spike in demand for masks, leaving many businesses sold out.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises only wearing a face mask if you are sick or caring for someone with the disease, as there is a risk that mask supplies will run out for health professionals who need them.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the Coronavirus outbreak?

A new strain of Coronavirus, COVID 19, is spreading around the world, causing deaths and major disruption to the global economy.

Responding to this crisis requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

The Forum has launched a new community, bringing together experts from the World Health Organization with business leaders around the world, which will hold regular virtual meetings to boost collaboration.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the Coronavirus.

Stay informed

Accurate information about COVID-19 and its spread is essential. But beware, because there is a lot of misinformation, scaremongering and fake news floating around on social media that can hamper efforts to contain the virus.

The latest information is available by visiting trusted sources like the World Health Organization’s information page.

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