The novel coronavirus is developing faster than experts can make sense of its pathology. In a few short months the pathogen has achieved emergency status, penetrated the US, compromised the global economy, and spawned a second more aggressive strain.
While it’s currently unknown how long COVID-19 can survive on a surface as a fomite, we know that transmission is both wide-ranging and efficient; with the average infected person spreading the virus to roughly three people before recovery.
Surveillance tactics are not really an option in a democratic society, so we look to our leading epidemiologists to lengthen our data set.
On Tuesday, Ladders had the pleasure of speaking with medical expert, Dr. Eudene Harry. Over two-decades of applying evidence-based care to various infectious disease scenarios has sobered her appraisal of the latest epidemic.
“In my opinion, it is too soon to increase panic and calling for general social isolation will no doubt do that. This is the time for awareness, education and where to go for reliable information. In the US, the chances of contracting COVID-19 is still relatively low. You still have a greater chance of contracting the flu or pneumonia,” Dr. Harry told Ladders. “It can certainly be a good idea to keep necessary prescriptions on hand. Let’s say you contracted just the common cold, or a mild respiratory infection, it is still recommended that you stay in until you feel better. This can protect you by decreasing your exposure to other contagions and protect others as well.”
Instruction, assessment, and containment
Among officials, the panic appears to be staffed by pandemics of the past.
Bill Gates recently evidenced as much in The New England Journal Of Medicine. The present status of COVID-19 hasn’t alarmed the magnate, but the potential it has to uproot nations, the economy and foreign relations is mimetic of some of history’s most formidable plagues.
With that concern in mind, I asked Dr. Harry if she knew of any viable precautions Americans can employ to remain risk-free throughout their hectic commute, in their offices, and on their route back home.
“Remaining risk-free is a tall order as there are not too many things that I know of that are risk-free. However, I can talk about reducing risks.”
Your 8-point Coronavirus checklist:
- Wipe down surfaces that are frequently touched by many people with a sanitizing wipe
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 secs
- Use hand sanitizers that contain at least 60 to 90 percent alcohol when soap and water is not readily available
- Consider a high-grade HEPA filter for your office. These can remove small particles from the air and, some filters are treated to kill viruses that are filtered through
- It may be challenging to wipe down the keyboard, for example, but perhaps UV light designed to inactivate viruses or bacteria can be useful. These can be lightweight and portable
- If your commute involves close contact in a crowded environment like a subway, avoiding close contact with others who may appear sick can be difficult. Ideally, keeping at least a 6 feet radius from someone who appears to have respiratory symptoms would decrease the risk of infection.
- Encouraging others to use a tissue to cough or sneeze then dispose of the tissue immediately (more challenging one).
- Giving workers the go-ahead to stay at home if they are not feeling well, could also decrease the risk of infection.
Some of the preemptive measures are psychological in nature. Dr. Harry isn’t alone in submitting hysteria as an exacerbating element of communal diseases. In addition to weakening our bodies’ natural defenses, anxiety makes us negligent. Until the medical community is confident about the contagion’s origin and methods of containment, we have to do our best to remain meticulous.
” If you need to know something immediately go to the CDC site for objective updates or call your doctor,” Dr. Harry added. “Chronic, prolonged stress that leaves you feeling vulnerable and helpless can negatively impact your immune system.”
Sanitation and immunization isn’t solely for our own benefit. It’s true that otherwise healthy US citizens evidence a relatively low-contraction risk, but there are millions of Americans living with illnesses that make them more susceptible to infections.
“Individuals with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, asthma and even heart disease can be at increased risk not just of contracting the virus but having a more severe cause of the disease. People who are undergoing cancer treatments and people who have had transplants are also at higher risk. Individuals over the age of 50 are also at an increased risk but our immune system may start decreasing around that time than 50,” Dr. Harry explained
Staying informed has become a challenge in the wake of conflicting (and often erroneous) information. Face masks seem to be the most polarizing suggestion posited by health officials.
“Most face masks are not designed to keep things out but rather to keep things in. They, however, increase the chances of us fidgeting with them to adjust, move so we can take a deep breath, etc. This then leads to breaking one of the cardinal rules for decreasing the risk of infection, avoid touching the face, eyes, nose, and mouth. The masks used by health care providers are actually called “respirators.” They meet certain requirements for protection and need to be fitted properly. For now, masks are best used by people who are already infected with a respiratory virus to prevent droplets from getting out,” Dr. Harry informed Ladders.
Try and privilege a granular survey of COVID-19’s development. The infection has arrived during a uniquely charged time; economically, politically and culturally. But as an individual everything you need to remain healthy is completely in your grasp. Mute the global reaction and stay in tune with the day-to-day dynamics.
“Tracking the unknown can come with an abundance of caution. I suspect high alert will be in place until the pattern and rate of spread is identified, stabilized and once health organizations can pin down relative severity, treatment, and prevention effectiveness.” Dr. Harry told Ladders.