In an epidemic, the worst thing we could do is overreact or panic. The best thing we could do is gain as much information as we can, and exercise precautions related to the risks we have gathered from verified sources.
Some hard data to keep in mind: More than 80% of those infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or those with COVID-19, will develop mild to moderate symptoms and recover fully without medical attention. Eighteen percent will develop severe symptoms like shortness of breath and may require hospitalization, but with supportive treatment, most will recover. Only 5% will end up critically ill, and this is because they have preexisting medical conditions like heart and/or lung problems, diabetes, and other debilitating diseases. The case fatality rate, or the percentage of those infected who died, is 2-3%, which means half of those who are critically ill will survive.
If you have underlying health issues and are over 60 years old, limit your exposure by staying at home or avoiding affected areas. If you’re healthy, you have little to worry about.
Social distancing, like avoiding handshakes, hugging, and kissing, should be practiced. Stay at least one meter away from people who are coughing and sneezing to avoid breathing in the respiratory droplets. Being on a crowded bus or train can be considered as close contact with strangers, so wear masks and practice strict hand hygiene. Change your clothes when you get home and wash them as soon as possible.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, or rub your hands with alcohol preparations with at least 70% concentration. If you’re wearing a mask, avoid holding it or adjusting it, especially if you haven’t washed your hands yet. Throw away disposable masks into a trash bin with a lid. If you haven’t washed your hands, don’t touch your face.
Don’t share helmets when taking a motorcycle taxi. Make sure it’s properly disinfected prior to use—or better yet, bring your own safety-certified helmet.
Practice respiratory hygiene. Cover your mouth by coughing or sneezing on your flexed elbows, or on a tissue that you should immediately dispose of in a covered trash can. That way, the droplets don’t get far or deposited on surfaces others can touch. Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing, or after throwing away used tissue or masks. Avoid spitting in public.
If you have cough and fever, avoid close contact with other people. Avoid traveling, if possible. If you get sick while traveling, inform the crew as soon as possible. You’ll protect others and get help sooner. Average COVID-19 incubation is 5.1 days from initial exposure, but some can have symptoms as early as the second day. Almost all of those infected or 97.5% of COVID-19 patients will have symptoms by the 11th day. Consider that when planning your travel.
If you have symptoms and are experiencing difficulty breathing, you may need hospitalization. Call your doctor or a nearby hospital. Don’t drive there yourself—or worse, take public transportation—going to the hospital. They will come thoroughly prepared, with an ambulance, to fetch you. That is to avoid infecting other commuters or your relative driving for you.
Have sympathy for those affected, but protect yourself while you care for them. Isolate those infected at home, in a separate room, until they recover. Strictly practice food safety. Clean hands and utensils when preparing food. Disinfect and clean the kitchen before and after use, especially when preparing raw food, like fish and meat, prior to cooking.
Just to recap, here are some of the opportunities to wash your hands:
- After coughing or sneezing
- Before and after caring for those who are sick
- Before, during, and after you prepare food
- Before eating
- After using the toilet
- When hands are visibly dirty or soiled
- After handling pets, animals or animal waste
In a crisis, spreading fear and paranoia is adding to the disaster. Share only relevant and helpful information. Avoid negative thoughts, or engaging in media you find upsetting.
Children are particularly vulnerable to stress, especially when they sense anxiety from their parents or caregivers. If you’re calm, they will be, too. Stick to usual routines as much as possible, to avoid alarming them unnecessarily. Educate them on how to protect themselves not just by telling them, but by showing them how you’re doing it yourself.
When others see you doing compassionate and humanitarian deeds, they’ll do it too. Unfortunately, it’s the same when you’re doing the opposite.