COVID-19, or its most commonly known name, the Coronavirus. Everywhere in the media you will see reports about this virus. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation coming up, none of which is helpful in preventing and containing the spread of the disease. Most of this misinformation is sensationalized and may be contributing towards senseless panic. With that being said, the virus must be treated like any other potentially crucial and fatal disease so in other words, we should be doing anything and everything we can do to prevent contracting it.
How does this virus have to do with the disease of addiction?
As people who have seen and experienced addiction firsthand, we know how important and crucial it is to be prepared for the worst. We also know that the better prepared we are for the physical, psychological, and emotional repercussions of life-altering disease, the more likely we are to come out on top and unharmed. It is important for current addicts to prepare, as the long-term use of many harmful substances serve to weaken the immune system. Many suffering from addiction may be participating in dangerous, unhygienic practices at a much higher frequency such as sharing needles, passing pipes, and just generally neglecting basic hygiene. Preventing a deadly illness is likely the last thing on their minds. This is why it is important that you learn the risks and prevention methods so that you can keep yourself out of harm’s way, as well as share information with loved ones so that they too can do their part in staying healthy.
It is essential that we do our part in spreading accurate, reliable information and stop the proliferation of false, sensationalized claims. Here’s what we know for sure (as of March 1, 2020), via the World Health Organization (WHO):
87,137 cases have been confirmed globally.
79,968 of those cases popped up in China (the epicenter of the virus). 2,873 deaths have occurred in China due to the virus.
7,169 cases have been confirmed outside of China, with 104 deaths being reported.
The most commonly reported symptoms include: fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath.
Approximately 14% experienced severe disease, and 5% became critically ill. However, it should be noted that severe illness occurs in correlation with those older than 60 years of age, especially among those with prior diseases and conditions that would have weakened their immune systems and decreased overall health prior to contracting the virus.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, there have been 43 confirmed cases and 2 deaths thus far. States with confirmed cases: Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Florida.
How to protect yourself and others against the virus
The first step in preparing for the virus is to attempt to do anything and everything in your power to stop its spread and keep yourself healthy. In order to do this, WHO recommends:
Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently
This might seem like a no-brainer, but if you consider that people fail to correctly wash their hands 97 percent of the time according to the USDA, it’s clearly more of a problem than most people believe. The CDC recommends that everyone wash their hands in these instances:
Before, during, and after preparing food
Before eating food
Before and after caring for someone who is ill
After using the bathroom
After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the bathroom.
After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
After handling pet food or pet treats
After touching garbage
And it’s important that you also wash your hands properly. The CDC recommends following these five steps every time:
“Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.”
Avoid touching your face, especially nose and mouth
Your mouth and nose are the most vulnerable entrances to your body, where disease can easily enter. Couple this with the fact that your hands come in contact with objects in the outside world more than any other body part, hand-to-face contact puts you at the most risk for contracting a disease.
Seek Medical Care Early
At the first sign of symptoms, it’s better to intervene quickly than wait until the symptoms worsen. If you catch the virus early enough, the quicker it can be treated and the less likely you are to spread it around and infect others.
The best defense against anything is knowledge and being prepared. The more you know, and the safer you will be.
How to prepare for a coronavirus pandemic
While preventing the spread is crucial, what happens in the case of an all-out pandemic? The more the virus spreads, the harder it will be to protect yourself. It’s a good idea to prepare in the event that the virus reaches pandemic levels. Here’s what to do:
Keep a two-week food and water supply on hand
Stock up on non-perishable items and canned foods. It is also recommended to have a reliable water supply.
Have over-the-counter medications and pain relief on hand
As more people get sick and the virus spreads, over-the-counter medications and pain relievers will likely become scarce. Stock up on cough and cold medicines, sources of electrolytes, Aspirin, etc.
Avoid risky travel
The CDC recommends no travel to mainland China and South Korea. At-risk individuals such as the elderly or immunocompromised are discouraged from traveling to Italy, Iran, and Japan as well.
Have copies of your medical records on-hand
The Department of Homeland Security advises U.S. citizens to prepare copies and electronic versions of their health records.
Continue or adopt healthy habits
The stronger your body and immune health, the more quickly you will be able to fight off the virus in the event that you are infected. Drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, exercise, maintain a healthy diet, etc.
Should we be worried?
While it is important to be prepared, there is no reason for widespread panic. So far, the coronavirus hasn’t proven itself to be any more dangerous than the common flu. This isn’t to say that the risk won’t increase, just that countries are now taking measures to contain the virus now that we are aware of it. Simply take extra precaution to avoid contracting the virus, and you’ll be doing your part in preventing the spread.