Let me begin by saying that I am a lawyer, not a doctor. Nothing in this article should be considered a medical opinion or medical advice and if you think you are exhibiting any signs or symptoms of COVID 19, please contact a medical professional right away.
So exactly what are the signs and symptoms of Coronavirus? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the three main indicators for possible Coronavirus are:
Shortness of Breath
The CDC recommends that you call your doctor if you have any of these signs and symptoms AND have either been in close contact with someone you know to have been diagnosed with COVID 19 OR if you or the person with whom you have had close contact has recently traveled to EITHER a location where there is a known widespread of COVID 19 or an on-going spread of the Coronavirus within the community.
As of March 8, 2020, the CDC has recommended that all travelers avoid/defer all cruise ship travel worldwide, particularly travelers with underlying health issues. Please note that this is only a recommendation and not a ban. If you choose to take that cruise, you could be subject to quarantine procedures of the government of the country you are visiting. Additionally, if you plan on keeping your travel plans, the CDC recommends reviewing travel.state.gov prior to your departure for the latest updates from the US Department of State.
The international areas where there is an on-going spread of COVID 19 are China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong. However, according to the World Health Organization, there are confirmed cases of COVID nearly worldwide, including the United States. However, the CDC has issued travel health notices of varying levels for each of these regions ranging from a Level 3 Travel Health Notice (China, Iran, Italy and South Korea) to a Level 1 Travel Health Notice (Hong Kong). A Level 3 Travel Health Notice is a Warning to avoid all nonessential travel. A Level 2 Travel Health Notice is an Alert to practice enhanced precautions. This means they are recommending all older adults and those who have chronic medical conditions should consider postponing all nonessential travel (treat it like a Level 3 for this group of high-risk travelers, otherwise it is okay to travel to this area—however, they recommend you limit your contact with others for 14 days upon your return and monitor your health for the symptoms set forth above). A Level 1 Travel Health Notice is a Watch and the recommendation is to avoid sick people and clean your hands often (meaning it’s okay to travel to this area, you just need to be cognizant should you develop any signs or symptoms of COVID 19).
With regard to cleaning your hands, the CDC recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water OR using a hand sanitizer with an alcohol base of at least 60%. The alcohol content should at least be on the drug facts label. Also, please be aware of the expiration date on your hand sanitizer. According to healthline.com, if a hand sanitizer is past its expiration date that means its effectiveness has dropped below the percentage listed on the drug facts label. While it still may have some benefit, the safest option would be to replace it so you know you are getting the minimum recommended 60% alcohol, typically ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol.
As we have seen with all the memes and videos of health and government officials talking about the importance of good hand washing, it is difficult for most of us to avoid touching our eyes, nose and mouth throughout the day. However, if your hands are visibly dirty, you should use soap and water. Otherwise, hand sanitizer with the recommended alcohol content is sufficient. At a minimum, you should wash your hands after using the restroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose (a general good hygiene tip even without the threat of Coronavirus).
Despite the overwhelming concern over COVID 19, most healthy people under 60 will only have mild symptoms. However, as of this writing, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID 19 and there is no treatment or cure. The best practice is to avoid or limit your exposure by:
Avoiding close contact with those who are sick
Staying home when you or your children are sick
Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
Regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces such as door knobs, handles, keyboards, phones, etc.
Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throwing the tissue in the garbage
Wash/sanitize your hands per above.
Generally, practice good hygiene. This can help to prevent not only Coronavirus, but other illnesses as well. Please visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html for additional information and tips and staying healthy and informed.