We’ve all seen the memes to combat the coronavirus scare that’s paralyzing the world: “Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands,” and there is a lot of truth to that glib comment. Social media has unending anecdotal remarks to offer in the never-ending quest to keep yourself and your children healthy during this busy flu and coronavirus season. But what do the medical experts have to say?
We’ve compiled our 5 best suggestions for staying healthy and avoiding the flu or coronavirus.
1. Wash your hands the right way
Yes, everyone knows we need to wash our hands frequently during flu season, but it might be a surprise to hear that very few adults do it correctly. Begin with warm water and plenty of soap. Make sure to wash the backs of the hands and the fingernails as well. Wash for 20 seconds, or two rounds of “Happy Birthday.” Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door.
Take time to remind and reteach your children how to wash the right way and quiz them on opportunities they have at school to wash and to use hand sanitizer. “Hand washing is the #1 way to get rid of coronavirus germs,” said Medco ER & Urgent Care’s Regional Medical Director, Dr. Tariq Vora.
2. Cover up
When you sneeze or cough, use a tissue or cover your mouth with your elbow to block microscopic particles from becoming airborne. Wash or sanitize after sneezing. Some people have opted to wear medical masks in public to reduce the risk of exposure.
3. Avoid contact
Avoid touching your face – eyes, nose, mouth – to reduce the risk of receiving or transmitting germs. If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others. Don’t share eating utensils or glasses. Use your own towels, bedding and clothes and keep them clean. If you know someone who is sick, avoid that person until he or she has been fever-free for at least 24 hours.
4. Build up your immune system
Diets high in refined sugars and starches can weaken immune systems. Limit the amount of sugars and empty carbs you and your children are consuming and opt instead for extra vegetables and fruits at mealtimes and as snacks.
Consider adding foods rich in:
- Vitamin C – kiwis, lemons, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, strawberries, oranges
- Zinc – dairy, eggs, meat, whole grains, legumes, nuts
5. Develop clever ways to protect your hands from germs
Think through your day. Do you have to touch elevator buttons to get to work? Do you ride an escalator or travel a lot of stairs? Does your store or ATM have a touch screen? Do you share a keyboard with others? How many public doors do you have to open as you go about a typical work day? Do you look at a menu at the restaurant? Begin strategizing how to get through your day with less contact with public surfaces. Do the same for your child.
Gloves, tissues, paper towels, a pencil and other devices can provide a layer of protection as you navigate. A natural antibacterial spray for the air, such as tea tree oil and water, can help cut down airborne germs. And, of course, don’t forget the hand sanitizer for times you have to touch a public surface and don’t have a chance to wash.
When should I go to the ER?
A common variety of flu can be treated with rest, fluids and staying home. Over-the-counter fever reducers, cough suppressants and decongestants may provide some relief. However, secondary infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia can crop up and they require prompt medical attention. As a general rule, if you are still feeling bad after 3 days, seek medical help. If you are having difficulty breathing or have become too dehydrated, go to the nearest emergency room (ER) immediately.
With the coronavirus, symptoms can manifest anywhere from 2 to 14 days after exposure. If you think you or your child may have contracted this virus, go to the nearest ER immediately. “Because the coronavirus requires containment and medical supervision, it is important that you tell your doctor right away if you think you have contracted the virus,” said Dr. Vora. “Include any information about recent travels and any exposure you may have had.”
Warning signs of coronavirus / COVID-19 include:
- Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
Where can I find help for the flu or virus?
For fast medical help, Medco ER & Urgent Care is available in two convenient locations. We’re always open, day and night, even on holidays. Within minutes of arriving, you will be ushered into a private room and will receive prompt care from a board-certified physician.
- Plano: 3960 Legacy Drive on the corner of Legacy and Coit Road. Call us @ 469-392-4000.
- Frisco: 5600 Eldorado Parkway across from McDonald’s and Costco. Call us @ 469-392-4100.
A rapidly evolving health story broke out in late December 2019, when a novel illness originating in Wuhan City, China made the news. Reports of the number of infected people (with now called 2019 Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV) swiftly rose, and isolated cases of this new virus have appeared in several countries, including the United States due to international travel. As of today, it has caused over 17,000 cases of confirmed cases and 362 deaths. Eleven cases and no deaths have been reported in the US. Fortunately, public health officials in many countries, including the US, have put measures in place to help prevent further spread of the virus.
With information changing so quickly and every news report about the virus seeming to raise the stakes, you may be wondering how likely it is that you or a loved one will become ill.
It’s convenient to turn to the internet for various links to information online. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there as well. The purpose of this writing is to provide you with some useful information on what we should know about this virus and what it may mean for you.
What is a Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a common cause of colds and other upper respiratory tract infections. These viruses infect certain animals and spread from one animal to another. However, they can also spread to humans, particularly if the virus mutates and becomes wide spread. Chinese authorities reported some cases of viral Pneumonia to the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2019. Many of the ill people had come in contact with a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, a large city in eastern China. Since then, it has become clear that the virus can spread from person to person.
What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?
Coronavirus can cause flu- like symptoms, including cough, fever and shortness of breath. There are some early reports of non-respiratory symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Many people recover within a few days. However, some people, especially the very young, elderly, or people with weak immune system may develop a more serious infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
How is it treated?
Scientists are working hard to understand the virus, and Chinese health authorities have posted its full genome in international database. Currently, there are no approved antivirals or vaccines for this particular Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Treatment is only limited to symptom relief and prevention of secondary infection at this time.
Should you worry about catching this virus?
Unless you have been in close contact with an infected person, meaning a traveler from Wuhan City, China who actually has the Coronavirus, you are likely to be safe.
How to prevent this infection?
While we don’t understand the complete particulars of how this virus spreads, Coronavirus can spread through respiratory droplets caused by cough and sneeze from an infected person. Basic infectious disease principles are key to curbing the spread of this virus. Wash your hands regularly, and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your inner elbow. Stay home from school or work if you have a fever. Avoid close contact with people who have signs of a respiratory infection, such as runny nose, coughing, sneezing or shortness of breath.
In the US, the average person is at extremely low risk of catching this virus at this time. In fact, we are much more likely to get the Flu than any other virus this winter. Approximately one in 10 people suffer from Influenza each flu season. According to the CDC, there have already been around 15 million cases of flu in the US this year, leading to numerous hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. And this flu season has not been particularly severe yet, unlike the past few years. Therefore, it’s still not too late to get a flu shot, an easy and highly recommended step (by CDC) toward avoiding the flu. Even if you do get the flu despite having gotten the vaccine, studies show that severe illness, hospitalization, ICU admission, and death are less likely to occur.
The Bottom Line:
Amid the current spread and the complexity of international travel, the number of cases and deaths attributed to Coronavirus will likely continue to climb. However, there is no need to panic. As more information becomes available, public health organizations like CDC and WHO will be sharing key information and strategies to deal with this threat.
While gathering information online may be the easiest initial option, contact your health care provider if you have symptoms of infection such as fever, cough or shortness of breath. Please be skeptical of any fake news, conspiracy theories and unfounded claims on the social media about Coronavirus. Addressing the concerns surrounding 2019-nCoV requires accessible, reliable and updated information from the experts whose mission is to protect public health.
Dr. Tariq M. Vora
Regional Medical Director
Medco ER, Plano & Frisco, Texas