Discussion of video games interrupted to bring you real talk about coronavirus from an epidemiologist (me): Now is the time to prepare.
Our chances of getting coronavirus (COVID-19) in the US are currently (2/26/20) low, but that is likely to change over the coming weeks or months. Now is the time to change your behavior and how you find information. It’s my observation that people in the US and other societies that value personal freedoms generally don’t like being told what to do, but in this case, I’m hoping we will all take the time to inform ourselves.
Look for information you can trust.
Pay attention to recommendations from public health officials by going to their websites–WHO has excellent, easy to read information; CDC is a little more dense but also thorough. The Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health Security has daily updates. I am lucky enough to be working with students of the JHBSPH Digital Health Society and JHU Global mHealth Initiative leader Dr. Alain Labrique on messaging to combat disinformation about COVID-19, so look for links here in the coming weeks.
Simple precautions for preventing transmission of infectious diseases include washing your hands regularly with soap and hot water for 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, not touching your face, cleaning surfaces of your electronic devices daily, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, covering your cough, and staying home if you’re sick.
COVID-19 seems to be quite contagious. The case fatality ratio reported from China seems to be somewhat high compared to the seasonal flu, but we can’t be sure yet–we public health scientists don’t have all the information we need, and that will take time. It’s not as high as something like a heart attack or cancer, or even Ebola or cholera, but many people won’t get those diseases. Think of it this way-by changing your behavior you may be protecting not just yourself, but also a family member, elderly neighbor, or the co-worker who just beat cancer but is still immunocompromised.
So as the WHO advised on 2/23/20, “If you are not in an area where COVID-19 is spreading, or if you have not travelled from one of those areas or have not been in close contact with someone who has and is feeling unwell, your chances of getting it are currently low. However, …It’s a good idea to get the facts to help you accurately determine your risks so that you can take reasonable precautions. …It is important to be informed of the situation where you live and take appropriate measures to protect yourself. (See Protection measures for everyone).”
Please leave any questions or comments below and I’ll find some reliable information to answer them.