I was traveling last week with the lingering effects of a common cold; a hoarse voice and kind of a wet cough, but no fever. (Thank you for indulging my description of the symptoms!) As I took my seat on my flight and began to fasten my seatbelt, I coughed and the person sitting next to me kind of freaked out.
“Do you have the flu?” “Are you sure?” “Because I cannot catch the flu right now!” “And with that coronavirus thing going around, you can’t be too careful.”
I assured my fellow passenger that I was pretty sure I didn’t have the flu, wasn’t contagious, and hadn’t been anywhere near Wuhan, China nor anyone who had been. I had brought a mask with me and planned to use it if I had a coughing fit. Still, this person spent the flight turned away from me as far as their seatbelt would allow.
Humans tend to get anxious about dangerous things that are out of our control: like catching the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), but if information helps you feel more in control, here’s some things that might be good to know.
The World Health Organization has produced an informative five-minute overview.
Risk of contracting COVID-19
“At this time,” the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states, COVID-19 “is NOT currently spreading in communities in the United States.”
Multnomah County’s Health Officer, Dr. Jennifer Vines, reports, “We believe the risk to the general Multnomah County population is low.” A community message about COVID-19 is available on the Health Department’s website in six languages, in addition to English.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- In general, CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear masks to protect themselves from novel coronavirus.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
According to the CDC, common human coronaviruses usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. Most people get infected with these viruses at some point in their lives, and these illnesses usually only last for a short amount of time. You can find out more about coronaviruses in the health databases from the Research tab (Alt Health Watch, Gale Health and Wellness, Health Source).
COVID-19 has not yet been declared a pandemic, which is defined as the outbreak of a disease on a global scale by the Gale Encyclopedia of Environmental Health. If reading about pandemics makes you feel more in control, the list below offers a few suggestions.
Image credit: Eye of Science / Photo Researchers / University Images Group Rights Managed / For Education Use Only. Retrieved from Britannica Image Quest.