Coronavirus: how to protect yourself against an infection
As the coronavirus is spreading around the world, health authorities have developed a series of basic tips to prevent infection. The World Health Organization (WHO) gives guidelines for hygiene, food care and travel tips. The first step to protect yourself and others is to make sure you are aware of these best practices.
The WHO says that healthy people should only wear a mask if they are caring for someone who is - or whom you suspect to be - infected with the coronavirus. The organization also warns that "masks are only effective if combined with frequent hand washing with a hydroalcoholic solution or with soap and water."
The WHO recommends the use of a mask if you find yourself coughing or sneezing. Before putting it on, you should wash your hands thoroughly with an alcohol-based disinfectant or simply with soap and water. Then "cover your mouth and nose with the mask," the WHO says, "and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask."
Avoid touching the mask while using it and, in case of contact, wash your hands thoroughly. "Change your mask as soon as it is wet and do not reuse the single-use masks," the WHO emphasizes. To remove your mask, untie it from behind without touching the front and discard it in a closed container. Then disinfect your hands or wash them well with soap and water.
You may be noticing a pattern here: washing your hands is essential. As recommended by all health authorities, "frequent" hand washing with an alcohol-based disinfectant or soap and water helps best to prevent infection. "Washing your hands in this way kills the virus if it is on your hands," according to the WHO.
Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. In addition, the WHO says, "throw the handkerchief away immediately and wash your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water."
Why can't you just hold your hand against your mouth? The WHO says that germs and viruses are better contained when you cover both the mouth and the nose. In addition, "if you sneeze or cough while covering yourself with your hands, you can contaminate the objects or people you touch."
The WHO is clear on this point: "If you have a fever, a cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention in time." Respiratory symptoms with fever "can have several causes and, depending on your history and personal circumstances, 2019-nCoV could be one of them."
Health authorities recommend that you don't travel to areas affected by the coronavirus, "unless strictly necessary." China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Iran and areas of Italy (such as Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont) are among those indicated.
The WHO recommends avoiding consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. "Handle raw meat, milk and animal organs with care, in order to avoid cross-contamination with raw food." This guideline is in accordance with regular food safety practices.