The Novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, and Personal Health

The Novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, and Personal Health

Debra Murray

Updated 4/7/2020

 

You have almost certainly heard about the newest version of the coronavirus (coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19) and all of the problems being created and expected to be created as it spreads around the world. While panic is never a good reaction to this or other dangerous situations, knowledge about health and safety recommendations can put people in control of their own lives and personal health. COVID-19 is spreading quickly, and has been declared a worldwide pandemic by the World Health Organization, so it definitely deserves our attention and every effort necessary to slow and stop its spread.

 

What Is the Coronavirus?

Coronavirus disease 2019 is the newest version of coronavirus to be discovered, with the first reported case in China in December 2019. Coronaviruses have been around for decades, some of which have proven more dangerous than others. Most people will contract at least one coronavirus during their lifetime. Most coronaviruses cause simple cold-like respiratory symptoms and are easily resisted by a healthy immune system; in fact, even COVID-19 only causes mild symptoms when contracted by someone who has a strong immune response. People with pre-existing unrelated medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and asthma and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of severe symptoms from coronaviruses, including the newest strain. The elderly are at special risk from COVID-19, which appears to affect them more severely than younger adults or even young children.

 

How Is the Coronavirus Spread?

As with many illnesses, the coronavirus is spread through physical contact. If the virus exists on a surface, it will move to anyone who comes into contact with that surface. While conditions will impact how long the virus will survive on a surface, it can last from a few hours to a few days. COVID-19 is not airborne, but can be spread through coughing or sneezing as bodily fluids (saliva, mucous, etc.) containing the virus land on people and exposed surfaces. Hands or other body parts with the virus on them can leave the virus on other surfaces, as well, such as doorknobs, handles, counters, and other commonly touched items. This is why cleaning surfaces with soap and water, then disinfecting those surfaces as a separate second step is highly recommended. This is always good hygienic practice, but with the 2019 coronavirus in an active stage, it becomes more important to keep up with cleaning surfaces that are potentially exposed to people who might be infected. If it is known that an infected person has touched or been around an area, cleaning should be done thoroughly, though allowing up to 24 hours to pass (as long as the affected area is not in continued use) may reduce the likelihood of the person who is cleaning the space being exposed to the live virus. It is now known that people can be infected with COVID-19 and show no symptoms, either because the disease has not reached its full strength yet or because the person's immune response is keeping the disease in check, but the disease can still be spread during this time. That makes it critical that protective measures are put in place at all times, even when you are not sure if you or anyone else around you has the disease.

 

How Can I Protect Myself?

Good personal hygiene is always recommended. Cover your face when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands with soap and water regularly, especially after sneezing, coughing, or coming into contact with areas where the coronavirus may exist. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before you eat and after using the restroom. Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose, mouth) as much as possible. If someone is feeling ill, they should stay at home and away from other people, preferably in one room with the door closed. Ideally, a sick person should have only one other person taking care of them to minimize the number of people who could contract the illness from them. If you are especially susceptible to illness, stay away from public areas and large groups of people. Social distancing, or staying 6 feet away from other people, is another good tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses. Replacing a handshake with a wave, bow, or other non-contact gesture will help to keep germs from passing person-to-person.

 

Facts and Fiction

As is often the case, there are several myths making the rounds about how to kill, avoid, or get rid of the coronavirus that are simply not true.

  1.  Hot or Cold Weather Kills the Coronavirus - FALSE: The COVID-19 virus can exist in hot, warm, cold, dry, humid, or any other kind of weather. While certain environmental factors may inhibit the longevity of the virus on surfaces, you can never know for certain how long the virus may have been on a surface before you touched it, so it is best to assume that a common area or known infected space has the live coronavirus on it and be careful to avoid or clean the area accordingly.
  2.  A Hot Bath or Shower Kills the Coronavirus - FALSE: While it is good to get clean, the water temperature necessary to kill the virus on contact would be dangerous to the person bathing. Wash off using soap and water, but don't assume that the water itself is killing the virus.This applies to hand washing, as well.
  3.  There Is No Magic Pill for the Coronavirus - TRUE: There are many healthy foods, supplements, medicines, etc. that can help with immune support and health. All of these will vary based on your personal condition and needs. There is currently no vaccine or approved treatment for the disease, though many companies are at work on developing something that will combat or prevent coronavirus infections. You should do everything you can to give your body what it needs to fight infections of all kinds and maximize your health, but there is no single solution that will protect you from COVID-19.
  4.  Everyone should be wearing a face mask - TRUE: If you are sick or are caring for someone who is sick, a clean face mask is a great idea to keep the virus from infecting more people. Medical face masks should be used once and disposed of to prevent contaminated surfaces from continuing to spread the virus; it is recommended that this type of mask is reserved for actual medical use by health care workers so that we do not contribute to the shortage that is already being felt by those who need these protective items. Outside of a medical care setting, the general public is encouraged to use non-medical cloth masks when in public, especially in areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain and/or contact with others is necessary. Cloth masks should be made of multiple layers of fabric that can be used, washed with other laundry, and used again once clean. It is important to be careful when removing a mask that may be infected with COVID-19 to avoid transmitting the germs onto other surfaces; it is best to wash your hands immediately after handling the mask so that you can safely touch other things without concern about spreading the disease.
  5. Gloves are important to protect against COVID-19 - TRUE AND FALSE: Gloves are a useful tool and effective in protecting against spreading disease when used properly. Gloves are really only recommended as part of the cleaning process for known infected areas, and should be pulled off so that they are inside-out and discarded as soon as the cleaning is complete. If you are interacting with someone who is sick, gloves can be helpful to keep the germs off of your skin, but again should be removed safely and discarded as soon as the immediate contact is complete. Gloves create a protective barrier between your hands and the environment, but they do not kill this or any other virus, and so should not be used more than once. It may be more economic and feasible to simply wash your hands after each contact with a known infection, as well as unknown public spaces. In fact, wearing gloves in public may do nothing to prevent spreading germs around, and can give you a false sense of cleanliness, leading to relaxing the rules that we know work such as washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer, and avoiding touching your face.

 

What BLUESPRING Is Doing

Like many businesses today, BLUESPRING is concerned about what we can and should be doing to fight the spread of the coronavirus and maintain the health of our customers and our employees. Because of our business model, we don't have to worry about public stores or face-to-face contact with hundreds of people every day who may or may not be infected. However, we do take seriously the threats COVID-19 poses to mail order shipping and passing along germs from our distribution center staff. We are implementing heightened cleanliness standards, including washing hands periodically throughout the day and using hand sanitizer regularly between washings. We will be wiping down product surfaces as items are placed into packages, and recommend that consumers do the same as you receive shipments from us and other companies. We have always had a policy for employees to stay home if they are sick, and we allow for paid time off to be used so that employees can maintain their paychecks even when they are ill and unable to work. Together, all of this should keep our employees free from contagious diseases like COVID-19, and prevent them from passing anything on to customers, as well.

 

Resources

https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/workplace-school-and-home-guidance.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html

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