By Traci Ruiz
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has warned that a coronavirus epidemic is a global issue, and according to The Mercury News, has spread to 18 nations (and growing), including the United States. The dialogue is shifting to protection and mitigation, especially for at risk populations like our elders.
The New York Times reports that a clinical trial has begun at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha to see if the drug Remdesivir, developed by Gilead Sciences can treat the illness. Even in an expedited situation, this trial will take time
In the meantime, prevention is the main deterrent for an illness that has infected millions of people and put lives at risk.
The Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a cousin of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus, common among animals. It is believed that the virus was first transmitted from animals to humans in Wuhan, China, in December, 2019. In the worst cases the virus can cause drug resistant pneumonia.
Older persons are more susceptible to all forms of illness and at high risk of serious influenza complications. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself, no matter how old you are:
Wash your hands: Dr. Mohammed Arsiwala, Michigan Urgent Care President, and The World Health Organization (W.H.O.)note that regular hand washing, especially before eating, is one of the most effective ways to reduce germs, which can lead to illness. There’s a right way and a wrong way to wash your hands. Here’s a link to the W.H.O.’s recommended process.
Keep your hands away from your face: Dr. Julie Vaishampayan, chairwoman of the public health committee for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, notes that, “Respiratory viruses don’t infect through your skin, they infect through your mucous membranes: the eyes, nose, and mouth.”
Get a Flu Shot: It won’t directly protect you against the coronavirus, but it can strengthen your immune system, so you can avoid becoming one of the several million Americans who have already contracted the flu this season.
Keep “High Touch” surfaces clean – Do the Laundry: Dr. Dean Sienko, a board-certified preventative medicine specialist-“It appears this virus can be spread through direct contact with respiratory secretions or indirectly via contaminated hands and possibly surfaces.” Keeping surfaces clean may seem like basic advice, but it’s good advice for prevention of a number of illnesses in the home.
Take care of yourself: “It is important to get adequate sleep, good nutrition, and minimize stress,” Sienko added.
What about masks? “Face masks can help protect against many respiratory infections that are spread through the droplet route, and that includes coronavirus and the flu,” infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security told Prevention Magazine. However, the public is not generally trained in the proper way to wear them, which could actually increase the risk of infection when you bring your hands close to your mouth to adjust a mask.
The CDC is not currently recommending that the general public wear face masks, unless you have a confirmed 2019-nCoV infection or are being evaluated for one. In that case, properly worn face masks by ill persons can protect others from contracting an infection.
It is unknown to what extent the coronavirus will affect the United States. “It’s unrealistic to think it’s not going to happen. It is how we handle it that’s important,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said, White House coronavirus Task Force Member. Being proactive in thinking about preventing all manner of illness is a good practice, especially as our loved ones age.
This CDC Link, takes a deeper dive into protecting yourself against the coronavirus. It’s a great resource and is regularly updated as new information comes to light.