With the novel coronavirus spreading quickly from country to country — thanks to the joys of cheap air travel, frequent flyer points and Lunar New Year — the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the contagion a global emergency and public enemy number one.
Latest corona virus news from China has the number of deaths at more than 1360 with the virus — now dubbed COVID-19 — thought to have originated from bats before jumping to humans. The virus is spread by an infected person coughing and sneezing; the droplets disperse onto people in the immediate area or contaminated surfaces within a two metre range. The incubation period is around three days.
While coronavirus has spread to more than 30 countries, with around 60,000 cases reported worldwide, the mortality rate outside Hubei province in China— the epicentre of the outbreak — is quite low at 2% mortality, according to CNN World News.
But should we be concerned? How likely is that we, or someone we know, will come into contact with or contract coronavirus? Experts say that while the virus spreads quickly, and recorded cases in the tens of thousands world-wide, the mortality rate is less than the SARS outbreak in 2003 — and significantly less than MERS oubtreak in 2012 which had a fatality rate of 35%. Deaths from the tend to be those with compromised immune systems, the elderly or infants — and, oddly, men.
That doesn’t mean, however, the everyday person on the street shouldn’t take steps to minimise the spread. We all have a personal responsibility to be good corporate citizens. So what steps can we take to protect ourselves — and others?
1. All in a lather
The most effective way to stop the spread of the coronavirus is to wash your hands. And we don’t mean rinsing your hands under running water for a few seconds. We’re talking the “s” word. Soap. The Centre for Disease Control say it makes no difference if you wash your hands in hot or cold water, just that you use soap — and work up a good lather.
Rub your hands together, getting into all the nooks and crannies between your fingers and thumbs, for at least 20 seconds. Use a nail brush to scrub your nails if you can. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol and follow the same process of hand washing as soap and water.
2. Remote but connected
We know that coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads by surface or person to person transmission. We also know that masks and gloves aren’t really effective in containing the corona virus. We know from our own personal experience that if one person gets sick in the office, then generally, almost everyone else gets sick too. The best way to halt a potential outbreak — particularly if staff or employees are worried about falling ill — is to work remotely from home. If you’re the boss, you can use Traqq — a time tracker app — to motivate your staff, help them stay connected and keep an eye on the productivity levels of your team.
Time tracking software like Traqq can be set up to ensure your projects are delivered on time and budget — even in the midst of a contagion like coronavirus.
3. Don’t touch me there
While shaking hands, hugging and even cheek kissing is not unusual behaviour when greeting friends, relatives or colleagues, to help stop the spread of the virus, limit physical contact as much as possible.
People may be offended, but it’s better than being Patient Zero. Or Typhoid Mary. If you feel that you can’t go to a business meeting without shaking hands — make sure you have your bottle of sanitiser handy if access to soap and water is limited or not a practical option. If people are offended that you use it, you can tell them that having clean hands is much better for business than lost productivity due to sickness. Or better yet, offer them a dollop.
4. Leave your face alone
While most of the preventative actions are aimed at stopping person to person transmission, you must also protect yourself against yourself. Don’t, under any circumstances, touch your face unless your hands are clean or have been sanitised.
Most viruses and bacteria can be transmitted via droplets on surfaces and the coronavirus is no different. Someone sneezes or coughs into their hand rather than their upper sleeve, touches the remote control, a handrail, a phone, a keyboard, a karaoke mic. You touch the same remote control, handrail, phone, keyboard, karaoke mic. You rub your eyes, scratch your nose, wipe your mouth, chew your nails. Bam! You’re now a walking Petri dish. And maybe even a super-spreader.
5. A super-spreader ain’t a super-hero
Picture this. Singapore 2020. One conference in a hotel, a few hundred attendees in close proximity, followed by post-conference travel to three European countries. That’s how one man spread the corona virus without even setting foot in China.
With global travel easy, cheap and necessary, it’s no wonder that the virus has spread as quickly as it has. Airports, planes, hotels, cruise ships, buses and trains are often hot beds for transmission and contagion because so many people come into contact with each other in contained and confined spaces. Countries in Asia and around the world have cancelled flights or restricted travel, and if you are concerned, it might be wise to limit any non-essential travel you had planned, too.
6. Surface pro
There’s a reason that all pandemic-type movies focus on their characters wearing hazmat suits and, when leaving an infected area, spraying everyone bleach. Bleach kills bacteria, fungus and viruses. Even Ebola. And definitely coronavirus. While you can’t get around in a hazmat suit — well, you can, but it might not be overly practical — bleach is readily available. And cheap. Just pop down to your local supermarket, and grab a few litres of chlorine bleach and a spray bottle. Use diluted bleach to wipe down surfaces, and items in your home — or office space — will be disinfected and clean. Make sure that you also clean and disinfect the cloth that you wipe down your home or office with. Or better yet, use disposable paper towels.
7. Kitchen capers
There’s a famous scene from Seinfeld where Jerry refuses to eat the pizza at Poppy’s because he knows the chef hadn’t washed his hands after visiting the toilet. If you think about it — and we don’t advise that you do because it will turn your mind into a pretzel — do you know the hygiene practices of your favourite restaurant or take-out? No. Didn’t think so. Unless you’re cross-contaminating the chopping boards and knives you use for chopping raw chicken with your salad vegetables, cooking at home is the safest option. And not to turn up the dial of paranoia, there are always a lot of people in restaurants. People cough. People sneeze. People spread contagions. No ingredients in your fridge or pantry? No worries. You don’t even need to leave your house, with so many home delivery options — and you can always order online.
8. Let’s get physical
Exercise, along with nutrition, is one of the keys to good health, but is going to the gym wise when there’s a pandemic? Given what we know about how the virus spreads, if you’re concerned about transmission, you might want to give the gym a miss for a while. That doesn’t mean you should quit exercise altogether. On the contrary, go for a walk or run outside. Dance to music from the eighties. Jump rope. Or do a home workout including chair exercises. There are plenty of YouTube videos or apps that can show you how to use your body weight for a gym-free workout.
9. Is there a doctor in the house?
Not every cold or flu is COVID-19, and generally self-care that includes rest, lots of fluids — and no, alcohol is not considered a fluid in this case — and bingeing on Netflix is the best medicine. It’s smart to listen to your body and pay attention to any headaches, sniffles or sore throats that are hanging around or getting worse.
The symptoms of corona virus are fever, cough and shortness of breath, so if you notice any of these signs in yourself or loved ones, it is best to get to your nearest medical centre for a thorough check. Better to be safe than sorry — no one has ever died of hypochondria.
This article is provided for information purposes only. If you, or anyone you know, is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, please seek medical assistance as a matter of urgency.
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