As of Monday, March 9, there have been 110,000 cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide, with over 500 cases here in the United States. And as tensions rise and people look for answers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released some new guidelines and information to keep us all healthy.
Coronavirus, according to the CDC, is highly contagious. “As trajectory continues,” noted Nancy Messonnier, M.D., in a CDC teleconference on Monday, “many in the U.S. will at some point—either this year or next—be exposed to the virus. And many will become sick.”
But don’t start panicking; according to the available data, the CDC expects most people who contract the virus will not develop a serious case. Of 70,000 cases in China, 80% were mild cases that saw full recoveries. Further, no one under 30 has died from COVID-19 in South Korea, and in Japan, no one under 50. But that said, risk does appear to increase with age for this virus.
And that means those 60 and older, especially if they have underlying conditions like heart or lung disease, should be taking precautions. Here’s what the CDC is recommending for people at highest risk.
Stock up (so you can avoid going out).
First and foremost, one of the best ways to avoid getting sick is limiting exposure. For this reason, the CDC says making sure you have supplies on hand can help limit trips to the store—and opportunities to get sick. And this includes both food and medical supplies.
Over-the-counter medications like fever reducers are always good to have. If you take routine prescriptions like high blood pressure or diabetes medication, it’s especially important to make sure you’re stocked up on those. While shopping for food, grab extra essentials just in case you wind up staying home longer than anticipated.
Ironically enough, the one thing you may want to stock up on that you actually don’t need to, is surgical masks. They’re not all that effective outside of medical settings, and Messonnier adds that the folks who really need them are the doctors “on the front lines.”Article continues below
Mind the everyday precautions.
Of course, everyday precautions are important to keep in mind as well.
Things like avoiding sick people, washing and drying your hands often, and “to the extent possible, avoid[ing] touching high-contact surfaces in public places,” Messonnier notes, can go a long way in preventing exposure as well. Similarly, “avoid crowds, especially poorly ventilated spaces,” she says.
And we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the CDC is also recommending travelers (especially those with underlying health issues), defer all cruise ship travel worldwide. And high-risk people should be avoiding nonessential travel altogether.
Monitor the situation in your area.
And lastly, given the varied amounts of cases in different locations, it’s important to monitor the situation in your given area. Check in with local leaders, watch your local news, and be in touch with friends and family.
“If you’re caring for a family member or friend who’s at risk, familiarize yourself with their medicine and get them extra,” says Messonnier.
“We need to do everything we can do to protect ourselves and our communities, so if it does spread, it’s in a slower fashion so we’re all better prepared,” Messonnier says. So if you’re at risk, heed these tips. Moving forward, remember, not everything you may hear about coronavirus is true. And we can’t say it enough: Don’t forget to wash those hands.