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It’s easy to feel helpless during a global pandemic, but you’re far from it. We all have a part to play in “flattening the curve” of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the new coronavirus). And in this case, a strong defense is the best offense.

Here’s the game plan:

Courtesy of the World Health Organization (WHO)

  1. HANDS: Wash them more often than you check Instagram, meaning often.
  2. ELBOWS: Cough or sneeze into these instead of your hands to limit the spread of germs.
  3. FACE: Don’t touch it.
  4. FEET: We’re talking distance, as in staying at least 3 feet (and preferably 6 feet) away from other people, aside from those you’re self-isolating with.
  5. FEEL: Listen to your body — if you’re feeling under the weather, stay home.

In addition to the steps above, you can take other simple measures to prevent transmission of the new coronavirus. Here are some recommendations from the CDC:

  • Get cleaning. Clean and disinfect the surfaces in your home, especially highly trafficked ones like doorknobs, faucets, keyboards, and phones. Regular detergent or soap and water will work for an initial clean. Then disinfect the surface with bleach (4 teaspoons per cup of water) or a 70 percent or greater alcohol solution.
  • Cover up. To protect others, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze. Ideally, you should cough into your elbow (since you don’t touch surfaces or people too often with that part of your body). Even if you use a tissue, it’s best to wash your hands afterward, just in case any viruses managed to slip through.
  • Mask up. If (and only if) you’re sick, the CDC recommends wearing a face mask when interacting with others (like at the doctor’s office or while using transit to get there). If you’re healthy, they don’t recommend you wear a mask.
  • Home is where your health is. We should all be self-isolating right now, but this applies even more if you aren’t feeling well. Staying at home is the best thing you can do to protect others, but of course you should go to the doctor if you need to.

How it spreads

When it comes to fighting the new coronavirus, knowledge is power. There’s a lot of misinformation about how the virus spreads, so here’s what we DO know for sure.

The term “coronavirus” refers to a category of viruses that also includes SARS, MERS, and the common cold. The current coronavirus is a being called “new” or “novel” because we haven’t experienced it in humans before. It’s less deadly than SARS or MERS but appears to be much more contagious.

One of the most important things to know about COVID-19 is that you can have only mild symptoms or none at all, so it’s possible to pass on the virus without realizing you have it.

Officials believe the virus originated in animals and spread to humans, which is rare. Rarer still is that it then began circulating from human to human, which is precisely what happened with SARS and MERS. (Don’t worry — your pets aren’t at risk.)

Here’s how the new coronavirus spreads from person to person:

  • coughing and sneezing — specifically, ingesting or inhaling respiratory fluid through your eyes, nose, or mouth from a person who has the virus when they sneeze or cough
  • touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face (specifically your eyes, nose, or mouth)
  • direct physical contact with someone who has the virus
  • fecal contamination, which is much less likely

How to protect yourself

First of all, don’t panic — that doesn’t help anyone. Follow the prevention and sanitation tips above, and continue to self-isolate.

The best way to avoid contracting the virus is to avoid situations that could put you in contact with it. Basically, stay in the comfort of your regularly cleaned and sanitized home.

Protect others

Staying at home doesn’t just protect you, it protects others — especially those at a higher risk, like older adults and people with preexisting medical conditions. You could be carrying the virus without knowing and spread it to others. If you’re feeling sick, call your healthcare provider.

If you have to leave your home to seek medical attention, stay at least 3 feet away from other people. Limit what and who you touch. Try not to sneeze or cough in public, and if you do, do so into your elbow.

Let’s be clear: Masks are for people who are sick, people who are high-risk, and medical professionals, especially in this urgent time of supply shortage. If you need to wear a mask, surgical face masks and N95 respirator face masks are the most effective.

Don’t expect your healthcare provider to prescribe antibiotics, since those fight only bacterial infections. Antibiotics won’t cure viruses (like the common cold, the flu, and the new coronavirus).

Teams across the world are working on a vaccine, but it’s still in development.

Current available treatments

People who have been diagnosed as having COVID-19 are receiving supportive treatments as well as certain drugs (more on those shortly).

Doctors treat people with severe symptoms by using medication to reduce a fever, administering fluids to prevent dehydration, and providing supplemental oxygen when necessary.

What’s being done to improve treatments?

As the world waits for a vaccine, doctors are relying on some medications to help treat the symptoms of COVID-19.

Remdesivir

Remdesivir is an experimental antiviral medication that was created to treat the Ebola virus and is now being used to fight the new coronavirus in isolated cells.

While this drug has not been approved for use in humans, the FDA has approved a clinical trial in the United States, and two are underway in China.

Lopinavir and ritonavir

Sold under the name Kaletra, ritonavir and lopinavir were created to treat HIV. But recently, a 54-year-old South Korean man with COVID-19 was successfully treated with these two drugs.

The WHO says Kaletra could be especially beneficial when used in combination with other drugs.

Chloroquine

This 70-year-old drug has been used to treat malaria and other autoimmune diseases. It’s considered safe and has been proven effective at combating SARS.

At least 10 clinical trials are currently testing chloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19.

Favilavir

Favilavir is an antiviral medication that was designed to treat nose and throat inflammation. It has been approved by China to treat COVID-19.

While the results of the study have yet to be released, favilavir proved effective at treating COVID-19 symptoms in the 70 people included in a trial.

APN01

China is set to start clinical trials on APN01, a drug developed in the early 2000s, as a treatment for COVID-19. The scientists who created APN01 also discovered a protein (ACE2) that was involved in infecting human cells in the SARS outbreak and the new coronavirus.

Depending on the results of the first trial, larger clinical trials will soon be underway.

If you think you have COVID-19, follow these steps:

  1. Assess your risk: Regular colds and infections are still going around, so try to remain objective about your symptoms. If people in your community have been diagnosed as having COVID-19 or if you’ve traveled recently, your chances of having contracted the virus are higher.
  2. Don’t rush to the doctor: Call your healthcare provider first. For the average healthy person, COVID-19 isn’t likely to be life threatening. If your symptoms are mild, it’s best to talk to your provider instead of venturing to a clinic and putting others at risk. Your provider will evaluate your condition and work with the necessary authorities to decide if you need testing.
  3. Hunker down at home: Self-isolation is vital in reducing the spread of the virus. Getting plenty of rest is also the best way to recover. If you’re at home with others, keep your distance and be mindful of touching common surfaces or sharing items.

According to the WHO, about 80 percent of people who contract the virus get better without hospital treatment.

If you’re healthy and relatively young and you don’t have any underlying health issues, your healthcare provider will most likely recommend you isolate and take care of yourself at home.

But if you’re older or immunosuppressed or you have preexisting conditions, call your healthcare provider as soon as you notice symptoms. If your symptoms start to worsen, seek medical attention immediately and take all the necessary precautions to protect others, like wearing a mask.

Let your local healthcare facility know when you’re coming in, so they can admit you appropriately. You can always call 911 in the case of a serious emergency.

Together, we can and will flatten the curve. So remember the COVID-19 game plan:

  • Wash your hands and disinfect surfaces in your home often.
  • Stay 3 feet away from other people, aside from those you’re self-isolating with.
  • Try not to touch your face, especially if you’re out of the house or haven’t recently washed your hands.
  • Remember that masks are for medical staff and people who are sick.
  • Sneeze or cough into your elbow, not your hands.
  • Stay home and steer clear of crowds.

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