Protecting Yourself from the COVID-19 : Coronavirus Disease

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Table of Contents

1.   General Protective Measures from COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease)

The Coronavirus is likely spread through coughing (respiratory droplets), kissing or other contact with saliva. A coronavirus can also be transmitted by touching an object where airborne droplets have settled. The viruses can survive for a relatively short period on surfaces depending on conditions of humidity and temperature.

The best protection from a virus is to receive a vaccination against it, but as of this writing there is no vaccination available for COVID-19. This pamphlet will specifically address various steps you can use to protect yourself at home, at work, while traveling, etc., but there are some general protective measures that research shows can decrease your chances of contracting any virus.

Protecting Yourself from the COVID-19
Protecting Yourself from the COVID-19

Wash your hands often.

This is particularly after contact with people who may be infected, or after touching surfaces or materials that may have been recently in contact with infected people. Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap. Lather your hands, including the backs, between your fingers, and under your nails and scrub for at least twenty seconds. (For children, have them sing Happy Birthday twice). Rinse your hands thoroughly. You can also use an alcohol-based handrub if you can’t get to soap and water.

Avoid touching your face.

Specifically, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Studies show that most people touch their faces, without thinking about it, more than a dozen times per hour. Try to break that habit. Viruses are most likely to enter your body through the eyes, nose and mouth. You cannot control everything you breathe, but you can reduce the risk of infection by keeping your hands away from your face. If you do have to touch your eyes, nose or mouth, do it with a clean tissue, or thoroughly wash your hands first. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze, then toss the tissue in the trash can and wash your hands. If you do not have a tissue available, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow rather than your hands (germs may have been stopped from entering further into your body by your nose or throat and you don’t want to take them back in or pass them on to others).

Avoid crowded places as much as possible.

Person-to-person transmission of viruses can occur when an infected person is coughing, sneezing, talking, or even simply breathing near someone else. A virus can be transmitted through the air to anyone within six feet (two meters). Therefore, the easiest way to avoid becoming sick is to keep your distance from as many people as possible. When this can’t be helped, wearing a proper face mask may help protect you (more about this in the Wearing a Face Mask chapter at the very end)

Get plenty of sleep, stay physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

2.   Protecting Yourself at Home from COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease)

Most private living quarters are relatively clean spaces relative to viral infection with the exception that other people who enter or even stand at the front door may be infected and bring the virus in with them — other family members, friends, delivery people, repair people, etc. After making any kind of physical contact with anyone who may be infected, it’s important to wash your hands as described above.

Avoid handling any item or object that has recently been touched by someone who may be infected.

Wipe down any questionable packages with disinfectant before handling them, including items delivered by the postal service.

Shop online as much as possible to avoid crowds.

Remember that anything you order may be touched by the hands of people who could be infected, including the delivery person. Wipe down the package before you open it, and if you believe the contents has been packed less than twenty-four hours before you received the package, wipe down the contents, too. For shopping that cannot be avoided, such as trips to the supermarket, try to shop at low-traffic times, such as immediately after the store opens or before it closes.

But…avoid home delivery of prepared foods or meals.

People who cook, prepare, package, and deliver the food may be infected, and since there is often only a short time between preparation and consumption by the customer, the risk of being infected may be significant. To further lower your chance of catching a virus, prepare all your meals from packages or cans that you can be sure have not been exposed to other humans for at least one day.

Check for common air vents.

Some apartments, townhouses, and other multi-family dwellings incorporate air vents that run between private living quarters. These vents are typically covered with metal grills and may be located in inconspicuous places in a corner, or near the ceiling or floor. If a neighbor is sick, take care to tape the vent over with plastic all the way around.

When caring for sick family member or friend, minimize close, face-to-face contact.

Keep the ill person isolated in a separate room and have them use a separate bathroom, if circumstances allow. When holding sick children, place their chin on your shoulder so they will not sneeze or cough in your face. Use disposable surgical gloves when carrying for a sick person, or be sure to wash your hands after touching them and after handling their tissues or laundry. Periodically wipe down their living space and bathroom with disinfectant. Be sure that you don’t use their dishes or eating utensils without a proper washing, and be mindful keeping items like your toothbrush well-separated from theirs. If you sleep in the same bed, then make sure the sick person has their own pillow and that it stays separate from yours.

3.   Protecting Yourself at Work from COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease)

Research shows that, for a variety of reasons, most employees go to work when they’re sick or still recovering from an illness. This means that many of them are contagious. Viruses are often spread at work via coughing, sneezing, and touching contaminated objects.

Following these guidelines will lower your risk of being infected.

Avoid touching break room sink faucet handles.

Studies have shown that break room sink faucet handles were found to be teeming with bacteria and viruses. Protect your fingers with a napkin or tissue, or clean the handles an antibacterial wipe or spray to clean it first.

Use care when operating the office microwave and coffee pot/water boiler.

Use the same precautions as listed above (the same unsanitary research findings apply to buttons and levers on devices like these)

Avoid using the office kitchen sponge.

Kitchen sponges harbor germs and sometimes aren’t replaced often as necessary. One study found respiratory and blood-borne pathogens lurking on sponges. Always wash your hands thoroughly after using one, and avoid cleaning anything that with it that you will be using to eat or drink (including spoons, forks and other utensils)

You can rid the office kitchen sponge of flu viruses by either running it through a full dishwasher cycle or microwaving it (while wet) on high for one minute.

Be careful when using vending machines.

The buttons on these, too, have be found to have high levels of contamination. Vending machines are particularly unsanitary because not only are people who may be sick touching the buttons, but anyone using the machines is handling coins and/or paper money—surfaces on which viruses can survive for hours time.

Don’t eat out of the reception candy bowl or company snack dish.

The reasons are obvious. Buy and keep your own personal snacks in your desk drawer.

Avoid sharing your keyboard and mouse, or using your colleagues’ computer.

Keyboards are particularly unsanitary, one study claiming that they are thousands of times dirtier than a toilet seat. Keep a pack of disinfecting wipes handy at your desk to regularly wipe down your keyboard and mouse.

Avoid sharing office phones.

Few office phones are regularly disinfected, and some studies have found them to be the dirtiest part of the office environment. If someone who may infected used your phone, wipe it down with disinfectant before using it, giving particular care to cleaning the mouthpiece.

Avoid shaking hands.

Such casual yet direct contact is one of the easiest ways the flu is spread.

It’s hard to refuse a handshake or a hug without seeming rude, and sometimes, in business, it cannot be avoided. In this case, as always, avoid touching your face and (discreetly) retreat and wash your hands thoroughly.

Avoid taking the elevator.

This is one of the most contaminated places in any office building, not only because of all the different people pushing the panel buttons, but because it is a tight, enclosed space, perhaps without much fresh air or circulation. Take the stairs instead —the exercise will help you maintain a strong immune system. If you can’t avoid the elevator, use your elbow for button-pushing. If you have to use your fingers, do not touch your face before thoroughly washing your hands.

Be extra careful using office restrooms.

Try not to touch the door handles, sink faucet handles, stall door handles, etc. Many offices are now equipped with touchless faucets—unless you work in such an office, take special care to use tissues or paper towels to protect yourself when touching anything inside the restrooms. If the entry door the pushes to open, use your elbow or shoulder. Do the same when leaving, or use a tissue/towel to turn and pull the handle.

Be careful when using a copy machine.

If you need make copies, wipe down the buttons and other parts you have to touch with a disinfecting wipe beforehand.

Avoid drinking fountains.

Most new designs are sanitary, but older designs may not be. Some studies have indicated that the splashing of backwashed saliva into the bowl can cause viruses to be dispersed into the air. Drinking fountains also have the problem of having to be activated by hand with a faucet or lever. If drinking water is not available from a cooler with disposable cups, bring your own bottled water to work.

4.   Protecting Yourself while Commuting / Travelling on Planes and Mass Transport from COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease)

Whenever possible, choose a window seat.

Aisle seats on planes, trains and busses experience significantly more traffic and therefore have a greater risk of exposure. People tend to touch seat arms, backs and headrests for balance when going to and from the restroom, and sick people are particularly prone to this. Window seats generally don’t have as much contact with passengers.

Wipe down your seat.

When packing your carry-on for your trip, take along some wipes and sanitizer. The armrests (and seatbelts, on planes) are among the least sanitary things on mass transport. Give them a thorough wipe-down before you sit down, and wipe the window area, too, if you plan to take nap.

Avoid using the tray table and seatback pocket.

Tray tables and seatback pockets are also quite unsanitary because so many people use them. If you must use them, wipe down all the surfaces before touching them.

Avoid touching support poles, support handles, and any other structures on the Interior.

The reasons for this are obvious. If you do make contact with them, remember not to touch your face and clean your hands with disinfectant wipes as soon as possible.

Avoid using transport restrooms.

As in offices, you have the same potential for contamination on doors, sinks, flush handles and toilet seats, but in this case the problem is compounded due to the compact volume (similar to the problem with elevators). It’s possible that the person who used the tiny restroom just prior to you is contagious and contaminated the air that is still circulating in the small space. Try to use a less used, more spacious restroom just before you embark. And an hour prior to, as well as during, the journey, refrain from drinking alcohol and beverages with caffeine, such as coffee, tea and cola, which increase urine production.

Change your seat as soon as possible if you are next to someone who appears ill (coughing, sneezing, etc.)

This isn’t always an option, in cases where seats are assigned and accommodations are tight. On a plane, ask the flight attendant for permission to move to a free seat.

Keep your overhead air vent turned on.

Research has shown that keeping overhead air vents open. This air has been cleaned by the onboard filtration system, and when directed straight downward, it create a “cone of protection” which can actually stop airborne viruses from approaching you. This can be particularly useful if you are stuck next to a passenger who is obviously ill—the airflow from the vent can ward off germs.

Stay hydrated.

For busses and trains, low humidity is usually not a problem. Aboard planes, however, humidity is about fifteen percent, as opposed to land, where it’s thirty to sixty percent. The low amount of moisture in cabin air can dry out mucous membranes in your nose and airways. When this happens, you are much more susceptible to viruses. To alleviate this vulnerability, stay hydrated. Take along your own bottle of water and plan to drink eight ounces per every hour you’re in the air to maintain proper hydration. Also, alcohol and caffeine will not only dehydrate you, but will cause your bladder to fill faster, as stated earlier. Therefore, it’s best to forgo the cocktails and coffee until after you’ve reached your destination.

Last but not least: avoid using mass transport altogether, if it’s an option.

There’s no question that flying in plains or riding trains or busses, and passing through their associated crowded stations, creates much greater exposure than if you drive your own car, or ride a bicycle or motorcycle to your destination. One study showed that the chances of contracting a virus increased by twenty percent. This elevated risk is particularly true at airports, where you may be exposed to travelers from various parts of the world which may have a much higher concentration of infected people. For daily commutes to work or plane trips less than one hour, consider using some other form of transportation with less exposure. Again, walking and! or riding a bike or other self-propelled vehicle will strengthen you immune system.

5.   Protecting Yourself with Face Mask from COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease)

Face masks can obviously be worn at home, at work, or while traveling, but how much do they really protect you against the Coronavirus?

There are basically two different kinds of masks with different levels of cost and effectiveness.

The Type 1 Surgical mask

These are disposable, gauzy masks, often colored blue or green, that you see doctors and nurses wearing in hospitals. Surgical masks are designed to be little more than a physical barrier that will guard against a splash or spray of fluid or large droplets. Such masks fit loosely on the face, so they don’t completely block out germs. Small airborne particles, such as caused by coughs and sneezes, can still pass through. The benefits are that they are cheap and comfortable to wear.

The Type 2 R95 Respirator.

The R95 is a respiratory protective device is designed to achieve a very close facial fit and has is very good at filtering out airborne particles.

The ‘N95’ designation means that when subjected to rigorous testing, the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles. If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of N95 respirators far exceed those of face masks. This means they will not work well when worn by children or people with facial hair. The N95 is much more expensive and is not nearly as comfortable to wear as the previously described surgical mask. Also, people who suffer from chronic respiratory, cardiac, or other medical conditions which make breathing difficult should check with their doctors before using an N95 respirator, because wearing the device can make breathing more difficult.

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