Unless you have been living under a rock, you've almost definitely heard of the current pandemic sweeping the world known as COVID-19 (or coronavirus). While it is definitely something to be aware of, it is not necessarily something we all need to be panicked and stressed about. In this post, we're going to run over some of the information that everyone needs to know about what coronavirus is, who is at risk, and how we can all help prevent it from spreading!
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. Within humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections including the common cold, and more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The coronavirus outbreak that we are currently dealing with is a recently discovered strain known as COVID-19. Up until the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, this virus and disease was unknown.
It is important to note that not everyone who has these symptoms has COVID-19, as these symptoms can be brought on by numerous other illnesses!
Oftentimes there are many people who may become infected, but do not develop any of these symptoms, nor do they feel unwell.
Who is at risk?
Everyone is at risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and there is currently no information to suggest that it discriminates between gender or race. However, there are a number of people who are at a higher risk of developing more serious symptoms if they were to become infected. These include:
These people who are at a higher risk should take extra pre-cautions to ensure they are not being exposed to an infected person, and should engage in behaviours that are going to reduce their risk of becoming infected, which we will cover below.
How does it spread?
COVID-19 is spread through the droplets of saliva that are expelled when an infected person sneezes or coughs. These droplets land on surrounding objects, surfaces or people, which can then be transferred to someone else through them touching the contaminated surface/object, and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. It is also possible to inhale (breathe in) these droplets when you are in close proximity with an infected person.
As we mentioned earlier, there are some people who can become infected but do not display symptoms. In these cases, it is very difficult to become infected by them as they are often not coughing or sneezing and thus are not producing these infected droplets.
How can we prevent it from spreading?
There are many different things that can be done to help protect both yourself and others from becoming infected. These include:
It is especially important to engage in these behaviors if you are likely to come in contact with someone who is of a higher risk!
Cleaning your hands regularly with soap and water, or an alcohol based hand sanitizer, is the most effective way of reducing the spread of infection. As we mentioned, COVID-19 is spread by droplets of saliva from an infected person. Regular washing of the hands helps kill off any of the virus that you may come in contact with, and prevents you from then transferring it to your eyes, nose or mouth.
Some of the more important times to wash your hands is after going to the toilet, before and after eating, and after sneezing or coughing.
Social distancing (i.e. maintaining a minimum 1.5m distance from others) is a great way of staying out of the 'blast zone' of an infected person when they sneeze or cough, as the droplets that get expelled do not generally travel further than 1.5m. Avoiding large gatherings, unless absolutely essential, is also another way of implementing this social distancing and avoiding the risk of infection. This unfortunately means you should also avoid hosting large gatherings or parties.
It is also important to note that social greetings or interactions where you come in contact with another person (i.e. a hand shake, hug or kiss) should be avoided. Alternative ways of greeting someone include:
Avoid Touching your Face:
The droplets that transmit this disease cannot be absorbed through the skin, and can only infect someone if it comes into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth. As such, by avoiding touching your face, you significantly reduce the risk of these droplets coming into contact with those susceptible areas.
Good Respiratory hygiene:
Good Respiratory hygiene includes covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough using:
Many people have also taken to wearing masks to help prevent the spread of droplets through coughing or sneezing. HOWEVER, there is currently no evidence to support that wearing a mask reduces your risk of becoming infected with the COVID-19. As such, masks should only be worn by people who are actually displaying symptoms.
Regular cleaning and disinfecting:
Regular cleaning of your environment at home, work and in your car is essential in minimizing the spread of COVID-19. In particular, regular touched surfaces such as door knobs, tables and light switches should be regularly cleaned.
Maintaining your Health
As with any other disease or illness, ensuring that you are actively working towards being the healthiest version of yourself possible is important in minimizing your risk of developing severe symptoms if you were to be infected. Healthy behaviors that you should engage in to achieve improved health include:
Can the disease be transmitted by pets, mosquitos or food?
There is currently no information or evidence to suggest that you can become infected with COVID-19 from your pets, mosquito bites or from food. However, you should not share food with anyone as this is an easy way for you to ingest potential droplets that may cause infection. You should also ensure that all food is prepared safely and properly to minimize your risk of developing other illnesses that come with ill-prepared food.
How likely is it that you will become infected?
The likelihood of you becoming infected is mainly dependent on your location, and whether there is an outbreak occurring there. If you are living in an area where there is an outbreak spreading, or you are visiting an area like this, you are at a higher risk of becoming infected.
Are there any anti-biotics or medicines that can prevent or treat COVID-19?
Antibiotics only work to treat bacterial infections, not viral infections such as the COVID-19. As such, antibiotics should not be taken unless prescribed to you by a relevant Health Professional for the management of some other illness.
Regarding current medicine or home remedies. While they may help alleviate symptoms, there is currently no evidence to suggest that they are able to prevent or cure this disease. There are a number of clinical trials being performed which are testing possible vaccines and drug treatments, however, none of these have been confirmed to prevent or cure COVID-19.
Do you need to stock up on food and toilet paper?
The short answer: No. There is no reason for anyone to be stocking up on excessive amounts of food and toilet paper. If for some reason you need to go into quarantine or self-isolation, then it may be beneficial to do a bulk shop of groceries so that you do not need to go back to the shops again, but for people who are not displaying any symptoms, there is really no need to buy excessive amounts of groceries or toilet paper. If anything, the excessive purchase of items like toilet paper, hand sanitisers, soap and food make it difficult for everyone in the community to have access to things that are going to help maintain their health and prevent the spread of disease, which effectively increases the communities risk of an outbreak spreading.
Moral of the story: don't go crazy... buy an appropriate amount of groceries and necessities.
What to do if you develop symptoms
If you develop symptoms such as fever, dry cough, sore throat or excessive fatigue, you should:
Take Home Message
The COVID-19 is definitely something to be aware of, but it is not necessarily something we all need to be panicked about. While yes, it is important to be aware and prepared for a potential outbreak in your area, you do not need to stress out and go overboard in your precautionary measures.
Ensuring that we practice good hygiene and engage in behaviors such as hand washing and social distancing can help minimize our risk of spreading the disease or becoming infected, especially if we are interacting with people who are at a higher risk of infection. Everyone should also aim to continue to live their normal lives, and maintain their health as best as they can through regular exercise, good nutrition and quality sleep, and approach this disease like they would any other illness.
If you feel unwell, stay home from work and seek medical advice from a professional.
We hope this clears up any questions you had about COVID-19. If you are curious about something, have a question you want answered, or are just wanting clarification about something, please feel free to contact us via phone (0450 062 223) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and we will be happy to help.
Carly Rush - Exercise Physiologist