Our View | Coronavirus reminds us to follow flu prevention

With outbreaks spreading from China to Europe and even to the United States, national media has turned its attention to the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). With a death toll of just over 900, most stemming from the epicenter of the outbreak in Hubel province, China, this new virus has been met with near-hysteria from people around the world. Both scientists and citizens are frantically searching for information on the viruses severity, and more importantly how to avoid it. 

This new virus is different from others in a couple ways. First, it’s a respiratory virus, a type of virus that tends to travel quickly from person to person, although severity does vary from virus to virus. Respiratory viruses spread through droplets from a cough or sneeze that can hang in the air for sometimes hours at a time, and be inhaled by those nearby, making it quite infectious and fast spreading.Second, it has no vaccine yet. Vaccines can take decades to develop, but scientists are trying to create one in just months.  

The tragic loss of lives, especially in China, has put many people into a panic around the world. However, at least in the United States, the risk and severity remains very low. 

To put it into perspective, coronavirus can be compared to another must more well known respiratory virus, the common flu, another type of respiratory virus. According to an article by Yale NewHaven Health, there have been 11 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States. In contrast, there have been nearly 15 million flu illnesses in the United States alone since October 2019, and between 10,000 to 20,000 deaths.

On a local level, The Iowa Department of Public Health recently issued a statement assuring that, “risk associated with the Novel Coronavirus to the general public remains low at this time.” They also clarify that the virus is associated primarily with, “travel to China, not to a specific ethnicity or group of people.”

Regardless, there are still risks that come with contracting any virus or bug, so staying safe and healthy is a must. The Center for Disease and Protection gives some tips on how to help prevent contracting respiratory diseases like the novel coronavirus. 

Because it can be spread from person-to-person contact, thoroughly washing hands before and after eating, using the bathroom, blowing your nose, and coughing and sneezing. If water and soap are not available, using a sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol can also work. Next, keeping hands away from eyes, ears, mouth and nose can help prevent things from spreading. 

If you are in the same space as someone who is sick, avoid contact and make sure to thoroughly disinfect surfaces. While this may seem like basic advice, these precautions can really help keep both you and others safe. 

Lastly, if you feel sick or have been exposed to someone who is, make sure to get medical attention. While there isn’t yet a developed vaccine, supportive care to help relieve symptoms is available. 

While there is a lot that is still being learned about the new coronavirus, keeping updated through reliable sources and using basic precautions to stay healthy and clean are some easy steps to help keep yourself and others safe.

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