As the outbreak of COVID-19, commonly referred to as the coronavirus, spreads across the country, anyone can take basic steps to help avoid infection, just as they should with seasonal influenza.
University of Mississippi Medical Center infectious diseases experts and the World Health Organization (WHO) advise frequent hand-washing as a first line of defense. Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with soap and water as directed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or with a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol to kill viruses that may be on your hands.
Maintain social distancing, putting at least three feet between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth that may contain the virus. If you’re too close, you can breathe in the droplets.
Avoid crowded areas or places where you might interact with those who are sick, especially if you have cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions or diabetes. Avoid physical contact when greeting others. Nod or wave instead of a hug or handshake.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Your hands touch many surfaces contaminated with viruses that can enter your body and make you sick.
Practice respiratory hygiene. Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow when you cough or sneeze. Or, use a tissue and then dispose of it immediately.
Clean frequently touched surfaces with household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants appropriate for the surface.
Seek medical care early for a cough, fever or difficulty breathing. Call ahead before you leave so providers can ask you questions and take precautions to protect staff and other patients from becoming sick. If you develop shortness of breath, seek care immediately.
Stay home from school, work or public places if you feel unwell, even if your symptoms are mild.
Be kind when addressing fears about COVID-19. Show empathy for those affected rather than creating stigma, recommends the WHO. Check in regularly by phone or electronically with friends and family who are sick or in isolation. Learn about the disease to assess its risks, and make practical measures to stay safe part of your day.
Click here for updated COVID-19 information from UMMC experts.