The spread of coronavirus in mainland China and over two dozen countries is alarming health experts. Here is what we know – and do not know – about how individuals can protect themselves. Soraya Ali reports.
Wearing face masks? Washing your hands?
How do you protect yourself against coronavirus?
This is what the world’s top health agencies are saying:
FIRST, KNOW THE SYMPTOMS
According to Britain’s National Health Service, America’s Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization mild cough, to severe fever and difficulty breathing are key indicators, but the exact way the virus is transmitted is unknown.
Similar diseases are usually spread through droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing.
Contact with a contaminated object can also spread infection.
SO WHAT ABOUT PREVENTION?
There’s currently no available vaccine or treatment, although China’s health ministry believes some HIV drugs may have an effect.
So, the best protection is to avoid exposure in the first place.
The CDC says that face masks aren’t necessary for the general public.
The World Health Organization says that although masks can curb the spread of the disease, it’s not required, and that it’s important to know that the masks’ usefulness is limited.
This means using masks only if you think you’re already sick, and have symptoms, to avoid spreading the virus to others.
The WHO also says it can be used if you’re in close proximity to someone ill, such as caring for a loved one, but be careful about how you dispose of used masks.
Whether you chose to wear one or not, your best bet is to practice good general hygiene according to the experts.
Wash your hands with warm water, disinfect surfaces, and keep a safe distance from sick people.
If you do show symptoms, seek medical care as soon as possible
WHO IS AT RISK?
So far, researchers say those with pre-existing medical conditions and the elderly are more vulnerable to severe illness from the virus – particularly those with respiratory problems, says the WHO.
But according to China’s National Health Commission people of all ages can become infected and everyone should take steps to protect themselves.