March 10, 2020

Practical Advice for Coronavirus in the USA

No need to panic, but you should also listen to specific trusted authorities regarding how to go about your everyday life and prepare for the effects of COVID-19 illness in your State and your hometown or city. As a biomedical scientist, this is what I am doing in my home and workplace with my own Family, friends, and co-workers. As a boss, and a professor, I have to take the initiative, lead by example and offer help. Here are some simple things to follow if you are feeling stressed about your own Family in the midst of this pandemic. 

First, do not focus too much on the testing for the virus, since the United States is already so far behind the curve without being ready to test, that doctors, hospitals and ERs will not be using this test to decide how to treat you if you show up ill with a fever or a dry persistent cough until testing becomes available and fast. Medical personnel will concentrate on evaluating your vitals and giving you the care you need for what is happening to your entire body regardless. So as far as medical treatment is concerned, focus on this:

1) Medical Treatment: who and where for you or your Family?

Who will you call if you or Family member gets symptoms? Check with your family doctor, and your health insurance company, even your local county health department if you do not have a doctor, so you have a phone number and a place to call for advice. You can certainly call any clinic or hospital but it is likely your regular doctor (if you have one) has a phone number to call 24/7. Have your pediatrician's contact information and be very careful with children who become dehydrated faster than adults when unable to eat and drink normally. Fortunately, this virus does not seem to impact children as much as the regular flu does. If you are having some symptoms, many hospitals will prefer we call them first before going to clog up their Emergency Rooms. Let the medical professionals guide you when to stay home and isolate and when to visit the clinic or hospital. We do not want to overload their emergency units for persons who will really need to go into an ICU.

2) Hand washing: soap and water, 20 seconds.

You have likely heard by now that most persons get this virus from direct close contact with ill persons who cough and sneeze nearby you or who have done so onto surfaces you touch with your hands within a couple of hours. So it is important to wash your hands after handling door handles, train handholds/bars, telephones, elevator buttons and any other surface you may touch. The important time to do that washing is mostly before you eat, or before you handle your cell phone, computer surfaces in your own home or workplace. Washing for 20 seconds with soap and water is very effective. Do have some hand cream to keep your skin from drying out. You can also find hand soaps with moisturizers. 

This virus has a lipid envelope (lipids are oils) and so soap is great for dissolving the virus and making it fall apart to be inactivated. 

3) Coughing, sneezing, and tissues.

You can keep yourself with a supply of tissues to hold handles, press elevator buttons and otherwise keep your skin off of public contaminated surfaces. Also if you sneeze or cough, catch it with a tissue and dispose of the tissue. Do not leave it on your desk or use it again. If you do not have a tissue on you, catch the cough or sneeze in your elbow. If you get coronavirus, you can be without symptoms for some time, and you do not want to spread it to other persons. If someone near you does not have tissues, and they are sneezing or coughing, give them some tissues.

4) Temperature: get a thermometer for home and work. 

We have thermometers to monitor for fever in Family and I also have one for the workplace, the laboratories I manage. At work, we monitor our temperature once a day for signs of fever. It can feel silly to do this when the virus is not obviously around in our city yet, but that is exactly the only time that these measures make their biggest difference in slowing or halting a pandemic disease. There are many fast and non-invasive temperature monitors that simply aim at the forehead to read temperature with an infra-red sensor. I got one for the lab from CVS pharmacy, a Braun branded one that is a no-touch forehead infra-red thermometer. Also have basic fever medication available, the ones that you may already know you prefer. 

5) Cleaning surfaces we touch often.

Our computer keyboards, our desk/wall phones, cell phones, and remote controls, are all surfaces to disinfect during the day. If you cannot find alcohol wipes you can use tissue with some rubbing alcohol (70% isopropanol). Wet the tissue with the rubbing alcohol and wipe the items. Do not pour it on your keyboard, or you will break it for good. Elevator buttons are busy during the day, so they won't get cleaned too many times a day, so use your elbow, tissue or pen to press those buttons. 

6) Greetings and handshakes...

No handshaking. Almost every culture appreciates the sentiment of not spreading disease, so do the elbow bump, no handshaking. 
We have a visiting speaker tomorrow at our workplace, but I will just offer him an elbow bump. 

7) Home needs

If you get stuck at home with this illness or even the regular flu, or in a community quarantine, you will benefit from having a modest stock up of canned soups, rice, ginger ale, apple juice, bread to toast (freeze some bread away), canned soup broth. All these items are good to feed to people with upset stomachs who must eat gentle foods and stay hydrated. Apple juice and ginger ale have sugar for some energy if hydration is all you can handle until you can start on food again. Have your pediatrician's contact information and be very careful with children who become dehydrated faster than adults when unable to eat and drink normally.


Save this link and use the advice here from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Household-Ready-Checklist

Ken Mitton, PhD
Professor of Biomedical Sciences

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