LIMA — The coronavirus is almost certain to continue its spread within the U.S. in the coming weeks. But good hygiene habits like frequent hand washing and cough etiquette could help contain the virus.
“The coronavirus is transmitted in essentially the same way as the flu — person to person spread,” said Steven Martin, a professor and dean of the Rudolph H. Raabe College of Pharmacy at Ohio Northern University.
There are some basic precautions people can start taking now, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
• Avoid contact with people who are sick
• Wash hands with soap and water — hand washing should last for at least 20 seconds — frequently, particularly after touching contaminated surfaces
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
• Cough and sneeze into a tissue or sleeve
• Disinfect high-touch surfaces like countertops, doorknobs, toilets, phones and keyboardsAnd most importantly: If you’re sick, stay home.
But face masks — while recommended for individuals already presenting symptoms associated with COVID-19 — won’t protect you from contracting the virus.
“If you’re coughing and have a fever, you should wear a mask,” said Pam Lawrence, a registered nurse and infection preventionist for Lima Memorial Health System.
That’s because the mask will prevent transmission of the virus when a person coughs, which would otherwise contaminate surfaces and infect others who come in contact with it. But that’s also why regular hand washing and disinfecting high-touch surfaces are important, Lawrence said, to kill off any traces of the virus when you can’t avoid contact.
“Sometimes we forget about those common-sense things,” Martin said.
Hospitals and health departments are already preparing for the possibility of new coronavirus cases in Ohio, even though the state is still classified as low risk. And as of last Thursday, there were no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio.
Lima Memorial Health System, for example, has pulled together its infectious disease committee to coordinate its coronavirus response with the Allen County Public Health department and other agencies leading the COVID-19 effort.
Similarly, Mercy Health–St. Rita’s is following CDC guidelines and monitoring the situation.
Time to stock up? Probably not, according to Martin.
“I think it’s always a good idea to be prepared for things that might happen,” Martin said, “but I would not think there would be a need to prepare for an extended period of time without food or water or medicines. I don’t see that occurring in the U.S.”
But Martin does recommend anyone who shows symptoms of the flu or COVID-19 to stay home when they’re sick, as that is still the best way to ensure no one else contracts the virus.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.