What is the Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are actually a family of viruses that have long existed. The current virus, Covid 19, is a novel strain of the coronavirus, meaning it has been newly identified in people. Coronaviruses are grouped together because they all transmitted between animals and people, this is known as a zoonotic virus.
Who is at risk?
Anyone that is exposed is at risk of contracting the coronavirus. The severity depends on factors such as your current health status and your available healthcare. For now, as we’ve seen with other influenzas, those at the highest risk seem to be those with underlying respiratory issues, compromised immune systems due to disease or treatment, the elderly, and young children. Other factors include where you live and the healthcare available. In the majority of cases so far (roughly 80%), the virus is mild, requires no hospitalization, and individuals recover fully.
What are the signs of infection?
The WHO outlines the most common symptoms as fever, tiredness and a dry cough. Other symptoms may include aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. They go on to say that some people can be infected and show no symptoms and that for most, the symptoms are mild and come on gradually.
Another notable factor is that the incubation period (the time where you are infected but show no symptoms) can be up to 14 days and that individuals are contagious in this time. This makes the spread of the virus hard to control and preventative measures especially important.
How does it spread?
The US National Institute of health states that it can spread in the following ways:
- In the air by coughing and sneezing
- Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands
- Rarely, feces
How can I avoid the Coronavirus?
The best way to avoid the virus is to avoid exposure. The WHO recommends individuals take the following precautions to avoid contracting the virus. These include regular hand washing, covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs, avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Should I consider buying face masks?
The use of face masks has become a popular practice, but if not used properly a mask can cause more harm than good. Generally, they should only be used by individuals who are infected with the disease or if an individual is caring for someone who is infected with the disease.
Even then, it must be used and disposed of properly to be effective and must always be used in combination with the precautions outlined above.
The WHO outlines how to use a mask effectively:
- Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
- Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.
- To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of the mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
Should I be taking extra vitamin C?
Vitamin C has long been known to be an important player in our immunity and the current state of the outbreak has significantly increased the sale of this vitamin globally.
Vitamin C plays an important role in immunity and in those deficient in vitamin C, immunity is compromised. However, there is no evidence to suggest that mega doses of vitamin C can prevent or treat the Coronavirus.
Our immune systems functions best when we are eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and meeting our needs for all vitamins and minerals. For some, doing so with diet alone may not be enough and in the case of nutrient deficiencies, vitamin supplementation is recommended.
In short, adequate vitamin C will keep your immune system running to full capacity and we encourage supporting a healthy immune system, but consuming excess vitamin C will not keep you safe from the disease.
The US National Institute of Health states, “There is no scientific evidence that any alternative remedies can prevent or cure the illness caused by the virus.” The most important and effective ways of preventing the spread are to follow the recommendations outlined above by the WHO.
What should I not do?
The WHO outlines measures that are not effective and can even be harmful when used against the virus. These include home remedies, taking antibiotics, and using multiple face masks. In addition, it is recommended not to smoke.
The WHO has published a list of myth busters to debunk Coronavirus home remedies. They include spraying oneself with alcohol, killing the virus with hand dryers or UV light, rinsing the nose with saline and eating garlic. None of these can prevent or treat the virus. For more information please visit: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters
The Bottom Line
There are several steps you can take to help stop the spread of the virus and protect yourself and others. It is important to get information from trustworthy sources and to follow the guidelines from the public health agency of your country.
For more information on the Coronavirus the following sources are recommended:
World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health, The CDC and ECDC, local public health agencies, hospitals, and universities. In addition, sources for the information provided are available below.