Spread knowledge, not fear!

These days, the hottest topic in community gatherings is the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), commonly known as coronavirus. In fact, like many other communities, our homeowners' association in Fairfax, Virginia, held an unscheduled meeting just to alleviate the concerns within the community.

People across the world are concerned about coronavirus—and rightly so. The pandemic is spreading fast, but so is the misinformation.

In addition to an overload of information from credible sources, we're also receiving an overload of information from people who have limited knowledge about it. We see numerous articles every day about the spread of the pandemic and are constantly receiving emails and information from counties and schools in our neighborhood about preventive measures. But very few address the biggest concerns of the community: How can you tell whether you have acquired the virus? What are the symptoms and what do you do if you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from the coronavirus?

Here are five things that you should know and should be sharing with your community.

What are the symptoms?

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To begin with, watch out for coughs, fever, and breathing difficulties.

Symptoms similar to that of pneumonia are a matter of grave concern. You should immediately isolate the individual and consult a doctor. Coronavirus can cause pneumonia, and people with low immunity are especially vulnerable. These include but not restricted to anyone over the age of 65. You are also extremely vulnerable if you have traveled recently to a country where coronavirus has hit hard. Also, remember symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure, which means that if someone returned from a high-risk region and felt fine, they can still be susceptible to the virus.

Remember, however, that the regular ol' flu can have these same symptoms, so although it's important to seek medical attention regardless, don't jump to the conclusion that you specifically have coronavirus until it's been tested and confirmed. 

Will a mask save me from the virus?

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Yes and no.

First, the surgical mask is useless against the coronavirus. The mask most people are using is called N95. An N95 FFR is a type of respirator which removes particles from the air that are breathed through it. These respirators filter out at least 95 percent (Hence N95) of very small (0.3 micron) particles. N95 FFRs are capable of filtering out all types of particles, including bacteria and viruses. CDC does not recommend the routine use of respirators outside of workplace settings (in the community). Most often, spread of respiratory viruses from person-to-person happens among close contacts (within 6 feet). 

The only issue with N95 masks, however, is that the ritual that comes with it is hard to follow by common people. For example, you need to change the mask when it becomes damp, which can happen two or three times in a day, you need to wash your hands profusely before putting on the mask, you cannot touch the front of the mask without washing your hands, etc.

Who is at risk?

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There is a lot of misconception about the age, but most experts agree that people of all ages are vulnerable. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus, however. WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves.

Is there a vaccine or medicine to fight the coronavirus?

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No. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 according to CDC. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The antiviral drugs we have against the flu do not work. Recovery depends on the strength of the immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.

What is the best preventive measure?

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Learn to sing "Happy Birthday." According to NHS UK, you should wash your hands for the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Washing hands regularly is the best preventive measure.

Other measures according to CDC include:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

There is a lot of panic and hysteria across the world. We should be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

The one thing we can do (and must do) is to prevent the spread of misinformation and share the information that can actually help. We can arm ourselves with the right knowledge and share it with the community in general and our families in particular. That is one way to fight coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). CDC is one source we highly recommend for accurate information.

What other measures can we take to be a part of the solution for our communities? Tell us in the comment section.