Coronarvirus Simplified and Explained with Suggested Actions
At this late stage the time for preparedness has largely passed but it is not entirely too late. Please read the following and consider either preparing accordingly or supplementing your current preps accordingly.
The novel coronavirus (COVID 19) currently spreading rapidly around the globe is reportedly spread primarily by droplets (think the size droplets you get when you sneeze–big enough to feel most of the time) with some spread being reported by airborne particles (think the size of the dust motes that you see suspended in the air if the sunlight hits them just right). What this means in practical terms is that most of the time people get the virus when someone contagious coughs or sneezes into their hand and touches an object (think doorknobs) or directly onto an object and then someone else touches it and subsequently touches their eyes, nose or mouth which introduces the virus into the body or when someone sneezes or coughs into the air at a distance of less than 4-6 feet from you and you inhale the droplets. Those size droplets usually fall out of the air within a few feet.
There is practically no chance of it going through intact unbroken skin into the body; that is simply not how it works. Some people–specifically the people on the cruise ship–reportedly got it from those much smaller particles that suspend in the air which is called airborne transmission. What makes this such a challenge to contain is that these size particles suspend in the air for a long time–they get sucked up into HVAC systems and recirculated, they drift on air currents etc.
The only real way to be assured of avoiding these particles is to wear both a N95 mask AND goggles for eye protection. Fortunately the risk of getting it this route is much lower unless you are in certain specific circumstances (in a building or on a cruise ship where the air is recirculated and you are constantly exposed and re-exposed until finally enough makes it into your body to cause you to get sick). Masks and goggles can prevent this type of exposure and reduce this risk however, the biggest reason masks and goggles are helpful is simply because they serve as a physical reminder and barrier to keep you from touching your eyes, nose and mouth which are the three places where viruses of all types most commonly enter your body.
This particular virus is very easily spread–according to info I am seeing online it spreads as much as 6 times quicker and easier than the flu and as much as 3-4 times easier than the stomach flu–in other words it spreads FAST! Making things worse, there is no natural immunity anywhere in any human population–no one has ever been exposed to it and developed antibodies to fight it off before now so everyone is susceptible to getting it. Fortunately it is not a devastatingly deadly disease.
Assuming adequate medical care it kills about 2-3% of the people who get it. Another 16% will have serious complications and end up hospitalized– with a smaller percentage in ICU, on a ventilator for a week to 2 weeks and then recover. The common flu kills about 0.2% of the people who get it and about that many more require hospitalization. Much like the seasonal flu is currently and chicken pox was when we were kids, if this coronavirus persists for long enough pretty much everyone will eventually get it–it is too contagious not too.
The biggest goal of the public health sector is to slow it down so that hospitals and the healthcare system aren’t overwhelmed. As a simplified example: if your hospital has 10 ICU beds and 100 people need an ICU bed right now its a bad, bad day but if 10 people need them this week, ten next week and ten for each of the following 8 weeks then its no big deal. Most of the things that should be coming down the pipe will be to try to spread the illness out over time so that it can be better managed. The impact this has is very, very, obvious when you look at China–in cities with a low caseload the death rate is 2-3% but in Hubei province where the system is totally overwhelmed it is about 4-5%.
The other hope is that by delaying and slowing the spread that summer will get here and as the traditional flu season ends the spread will slow down naturally. I personally suspect that it will slow down over the summer here in the USA but will be running rampant through South America and Africa during their winter and will then come sweeping back through the US next winter again. By the following year we should have vaccine production ramped up enough to make an actual difference.
What you can do:
1) Prepare and implement what are termed “Non-pharmacological interventions” by the CDC.
A) Isolation at home and home (self) treatment for mild to moderate cases. This includes having a supply of medication to treat the symptoms of the common flu–cough drops, cough syrup, tylenol, etc.
Simply put: stay home; if you get a cold or the flu treat yourself for as long as you can using all the OTC remedies and options at your disposal. Only go to the hospital if you develop a severe case.
B) Voluntary home quarantine and isolation if exposed or at high risk of serious complications. This includes several weeks to several months of food, medication, basic necessities and a way to stay occupied and fight boredom.
Again, simply put: stay home. Avoid any public place and avoid interacting with people that have been in those places until they have showered, changed clothes and washed their hands.
C) Dismissal of students from school/childcare etc. Prepare and plan for schools, daycare’s etc to be shut down and have arrangements made for same.
This isn’t an issue for everyone but boy is it a major issue for some people! If it is not an issue for you consider helping out with the kids of any family members that work in a critical field–if you do make sure they wash their hands regularly and make sure that they aren’t bringing the germs to you!
D) Use of Social Distancing measures to “reduce contact between adults in the community and workplace, including, for example, cancellation of large public gatherings and alteration of workplace environments and schedules to decrease social density and preserve a healthy workplace to the greatest extent possible without disrupting essential services.” Plan on limiting your encounters with people–maintain 6′ of separation between individuals, avoid sharing close spaces, avoid handshakes, avoid crowded environments such as buses and public transit, avoid public restrooms, avoid any gathering of people.
Again, it boils down to staying home and avoiding people. If you are a deacon, elder, pastor, rabbi or church leader of any flavor consider canceling services or doing a conference call or facebook live video feed of your service from an empty church to your congregation–you can see to their spiritual well-being without exposing them to the dangers of a public gathering. If you have to go out to the store, the doctor, etc. stay well away from everyone you can, avoid shaking hands, hugging etc. Consider wearing gloves and a mask if going to an area where people frequent–especially places where lots of sick people are. A quick aside about the public restrooms, there is a cluster of cases in Hong Kong where a leaky sewer pipe is suspected of infecting a bunch of people which suggests that the virus (known to be present in feces) was aerosolized into the air from the septic system. Other research has suggested that a toilet that is flushed with the lid open generates enough aerosolized feces to sometimes spread diseases–given its virulence this disease might well be spread that way–so avoid public restrooms.
2) Maintain good hygiene–wash your hands regularly, bathe daily, if around groups of people or potentially exposed to someone who is ill, wash your clothes when you get home and take a shower. Remove your shoes at the door so you aren’t tracking in germs. Don’t share food or drinks. I know this sounds pretty basic but as a Paramedic when I get off work or after dealing with a patient that is contagious, I wash my hands at the ER and when I get back to the station I leave my shoes at the door, strip my outer clothes off directly into the washer and start it, go directly to the shower and take a hot shower and wash off thoroughly. Then I’ll get dressed, put on a pair of gloves and go Lysol my shoes. It isn’t perfect but it helps.
3) If local cases are reported consider wearing a N95 mask and goggles any time you are in a public area if you have them available–note that fit-testing is recommended to ensure that the mask seals appropriately and that facial hair prevents a mask seal. Also note that while surgical masks (simple masks) are not as effective they will remind you not to touch your face which DOES help some. Note that all healthcare providers especially should err on the side of caution and approach all patients with any related complaint as if they were confirmed as having the virus–this COVID 19 has already infected about 2000 healthcare workers so there is absolutely no room for being cocky or taking chances.
4) Get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, practice good nutrition and maintain a healthy immune system. The healthier you are the quicker and easier your body can fight infection.
What you should consider stocking up on:
1) Food. To stay at home and isolate yourself most effectively, you want to eliminate your need to go out to the store so you should have plenty of food. One of the best ways I have heard to do this is to make a meal plan for 2 weeks worth of meals that you would regularly eat (pinto beans and cornbread and potato soup for two days, spaghetti for one day, leftover spaghetti turned into baked spaghetti for one day…etc for 2 weeks) and then take that menu and write out all the ingredients necessary to prepare each of those meals and multiply it by 6 or 7 to have a 3 months supply of food that you enjoy eating. Then go buy all that and store it/freeze it etc. Consider substitutions for items that you can only get fresh (evaporated or powdered milk–>fresh milk) (biscuits for sliced bread) etc. I’d also include PET FOOD in this category since Fido has to eat too.
2) OTC Cold and Flu Meds plus Multivitamins: to treat yourself at home you should have a variety of OTC meds and remedies from basic tylenol/aspirin, to stuff to make a hot toddy, to Alka Seltzer Plus. The multivitamins make up for any deficiencies in your diet. Also consider getting stuff for other common ailments like indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, etc. so that you do not have to go to the store if one of these things happens.
3) Prescription meds: I get all my scripts filled in a 3 month supply so I don’t have to go to the pharmacy as often. See if you can do the same. Pharmacies are usually full of sick people.
4) Hygiene Items, Cleaning products and disinfectants: be sure and stock up on toilet paper, soap, Lysol, bleach, laundry detergent, dish soap etc. All these are your first line of defense against spreading an infection. Also, look in your bathroom and in your cabinets and get anything you use regularly–again you don’t want to be elbowing people out of the way at Walmart when half of them end up having the infection.
5) Masks and goggles: Good luck finding these right now. I have been looking and haven’t seen any. You really need N95 or N100 masks but again any mask is better than none.
6) Gloves: again good luck finding any. Nitrile exam gloves are probably preferable but kitchen rubber gloves would work in a pinch I guess.
7) Any addictions you have: Now is probably not the time you are going to quit. Double Stock whatever poison or distraction you prefer because when you are cooped up at home you’ll be desperate enough for a cigarette or a drink or romance novel or whatever that you’ll risk getting infected to go buy more.
8) Entertainment Options: get something to keep you occupied and then get something else. Board games, card games, video games, a whittling/carving set, whatever just know that self-imposed isolation makes days really drag by.
I hope this helps and is not too long to be useful.