05 Mar Coronavirus Concerns? Prepare—But Don’t Hit the Panic Button
How much do you remember about SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), the first pandemic of the 21st Century in 2003? The virus shocked the world as it swiftly spread from continent to continent. It had approximately a 10-12% mortality rate, and it resulted in distressing effects on local and regional economies. But we’re here to tell the tale!
To give us some perspective, influenza (“the flu”) causes millions of people in the United States to become sick each year. This results in tens of thousands of deaths every flu season. There are many factors that contribute to this. The figures include the number of people infected, the availability of vaccines, and the specific strain of the flu virus. In a pandemic flu season, during which there is a higher than usual outbreak of the flu virus, there are more infection-related deaths. However, even in a non-pandemic year, the lives of many are lost as a result of the flu.
Those of us who live on the West Coast in the U.S. are already feeling the pain of confirmed cases—and now deaths—from the presence of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our cities. Experts in infectious diseases agree that new cases fall into the community spread contagion category. And this is the tipping point that leads to a pandemic and fear.
So, what does this news mean for us?
Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch, predicts that somewhere between 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But the good news—if any—is that it is likely that many will have mild cases of the virus, or they may be asymptomatic.
Right now, the international data we do have, is that of the people who have tested positive for COVID-19, approximately 80% do not exhibit symptoms that currently require hospitalization.”
Although, it’s still unclear exactly how contagious or powerful this virus is, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates symptoms occur 2-14 days after exposure. It’s mainly spread through the respiratory system—such as breathing or coughing on someone. Signs of the virus are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Like with many other illnesses, older adults and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk.
Unfortunately, the Coronavirus news creates psychological implications that can harm our health
If you talk with five different people, you’ll hear a range of reactions to the 2020 viral assault. Some have stocked up on emergency supplies and face masks. Some have canceled travel plans or given up tickets to sports events, but still others are oblivious to the reports in the news. But, in all honesty, the majority of Americans polled admit a sense of apprehension and anxiety. The problem is that if we dwell on possible catastrophes, our thinking patterns may make contagion more likely.
Despite the information we hear, part of the problem is that we humans are not great at assessing risk. Professor Paul Slovic, Ph.D., instructor at the University of Oregon, specializes in researching risk and decision making. He tells us that the way in which risk is conveyed determines how it gets interpreted. You can likely guess what happens. People tend to use their emotions—not logic and data analysis—to evaluate risks.
To help us feel less anxious, it is important to get news from reliable sources—when possible—and considering known facts. (For updates on coronavirus, check the CDC Website.
Remember to practice these five healthy habits
Remind yourself what you have done in past years to avoid the flu whether you have had a flu shot or not. The CDC advises all of to practice these five healthy habits below during flu season—regardless of the strain. It is important not only to protect ourselves, but to avoid spreading germs.
- Wash your hands. Using soap and water, lather up for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol. This is especially important after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Cover your cough or sneeze.Use a tissue that you can throw away. And, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth since the virus is transmitted through the respiratory system.
- Stay home and rest if you’re sick. Chances are you don’t have the virus, but officials advise staying home if you don’t feel well. Call your health provider’s office and ask for advice about being seen if you suspect flu.
- Keep surfaces clean.Use a disinfecting cleaning spray or wipes on high-touch surfaces like light switches, doorknobs, your phone, and remote controls.
- Do your best to stay away from others who are coughing and sneezing with no apparent contagion protection.One thing we know about the virus is that it is very contagious.
It’s time for some first-class self-care
Be aware that the threats you may be feeling toward all the noise and commotion about the Coronavirus can create an abundance of stress which puts you at greater risk. I suggest that you take a few minutes (less than 12 minutes) to hear what Deepak Chopra recommends to help us feel better. In this video he discusses several things we can do to improve our immunity (I suggest watching from the beginning to 11:46). He also reminds us of the importance in supporting one another. Germs know no boundaries, so we are all sharing this time in history together with brothers and sisters around the globe.
Can something positive result from all this? I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section of the blog…and most of all, stay well!
(For those who do not yet know Deepak Chopra, he is the founder of Chopra Global, a modern day health company that integrates science and spirituality. He is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. He is also author of over 89 books—including numerous New York Times bestsellers.)