As many countries around the world are closing borders and putting citizens under lockdown in a bid to contain the new coronavirus outbreak, labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), these are tips on what to know and have if you get sick.
As more of us are told to stay at home and concerns rise for our safety and the safety of our loved ones, it becomes more important than ever to have the right information.
How serious is SARS-Cov-2?
SARS-CoV-2 is the name given the novel coronavirus; the disease it causes is known as COVID-19.
According to the WHO, the new coronavirus so far has an average R0 (contagion metric) between 2 and 2.5, which means an infected person can pass it on to more than two people.
This makes it more contagious than seasonal flu (R0 1.3), H1N1 – which has an R0 between 1.2 and 1.6 – and Ebola with R0 of 1.6 to 2.
But it is less contagious than SARS, which was passed on to up to four people or MERS, which had a transmission rate between 2.5 and 7.2 in some places.
Several variables can decide whether someone will make another person sick, including the way it is transmitted (through the air or in bodily fluids); whether a pathogen is contagious during its incubation period; how long that incubation period lasts; and how many people the average patient has contact with.
How to protect yourself
There are several directives given by health organisations to stay safe. They include:
- Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap;
- Covering your face when you cough or sneeze, either with a tissue that you immediately dispose of, or with your elbow;
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth;
- Cleaning surfaces and objects you touch often;
- Avoiding direct contact with live animals in affected areas.
Scientists doubt the effectiveness of face masks in protecting a healthy person from airborne viruses, saying they are more useful in keeping an infected person from affecting others.
More countries are advising people to self-quarantine for at least two weeks while implementing a series of sweeping “social distancing” measures, including banning public gatherings and shutting down schools.
Social distancing aims to slow the spread of the virus, giving global health systems more time to care for patients who need help, which is also known as “flattening the curve”.
It is most effective when used against infections that can be transmitted via droplet contact (coughing or sneezing), which is the case with the coronavirus.
Cancellation of public events that draw large crowds, such as sporting events and music festivals, is an essential part of social distancing, but avoiding smaller gatherings is equally important, according to Johns Hopkins University.
When you are in any kind of gathering or at a service provider, it is important to stay at least 1.8 metres (six feet) away from anyone around you.
Other social distancing techniques are working from home instead of at the office, e-learning instead of going to school, and visiting loved ones via electronic devices instead of in person.