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Prepare for the Coronavirus, Calmly

Question: Which epidemic is spreading faster than the coronavirus?
Answer: Panic.

This is partly due to the fact that COVID-19, as it has officially been dubbed, is new, and there’s much we still don’t know about it. And our family practice doctors at Cohen Medical Associates in Delray Beach know that fear of the unknown is a primal response in humans.

And, of course, Broward Country just saw its first two deaths from COVID-19 this past weekend, which brings the crisis home.

Because the epidemic is ongoing, we want to give you an update to what we know at the moment, and offer advice on the best ways to prepare for COVID-19, calmly.


What we know

  • It appears that COVID-19 is most dangerous to those in their 60s and older, and those with underlying health conditions. Severe complications in children are uncommon, the CDC says.


  • Experts believe the 3.4 percent fatality rate seen so far is actually much lower. That’s because the virus causes mild—or in some cases no—symptoms. People can be infected (and infect others) without knowing it. As testing in the U.S. becomes more available, the number of actual infections will be better known, likely lowering the number of deaths-to-infections.


  • The vast majority of those who contract COVID-19 will recover without being treated. Many survivors have compared their illness to the common cold or a flu.


What we don’t know

  • We don’t yet know how long people are contagious after they recover from the virus.


  • We don’t know whether they can become reinfected after they have the illness, or whether the virus will lie dormant within the body. Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) said it believes it may just be “virus persistence,” rather than reinfection.


  • The vast majority of those who contract COVID-19 will recover without being treated. Many survivors have compared their illness to the common cold or a flu.


What to do

  1. Wash. Your. Hands.

Warm or cold water and any kind of soap will remove viruses and bacteria. Be sure to wash the entire hand, including fingertips and beneath fingernails, for 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer if necessary.

In addition, use a tissue if you must touch such high-touch surfaces as elevator and ATM buttons, handrails, doorknobs, etc. And don’t touch your face unless you’ve just washed your hands.


  1. Boost your immunity

Make sure to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has compiled a list of recommended cleaning products for COVID-19, or you can use full-strength household vinegar to scrub surfaces.


  1. Make sensible plans

It is possible that the coronavirus will become widespread in the U.S. If you should contract it, you may be subject to self-quarantine. So have enough food and supplies on hand, including for pets, to last at least two weeks, as well as a three-month supply of medications for any chronic illnesses you have.


  1. Keep your germs to yourself

If you’re sick with anything contagious, stay home. If you must go out, and feel the need to sneeze or cough, do so into your elbow. Better still, carry the modern version of a handkerchief—a tissue or paper towel, for example—in your pocket or purse and cough or sneeze into that.


  1. Get reliable information

There’s nothing wrong with text chains and Facebook feeds, as long as they’re forwarding reliable information from vetted, professional sources. These include the local and major networks and newspapers, as well as official sources:




  1. Call us for advice

If you have fever and a cough, or or any symptom that concerns you, please call us immediately. Do not go to the emergency room.


What not to do

  1. Do not mix and mingle

If you’re over 60 or have a chronic health condition such as lung or heart disease, diabetes, or a compromised immune system, the CDC recommends that you stay home as much as possible. This means avoiding movie theaters or malls, crowds (including family events and religious services), or travel by plane or—of course—cruise ships.


  1. Do not panic

While it’s still early in the outbreak, expertise with past epidemics reinforces that COVID-19 is not an existential threat to humanity. Unlike past epidemics and pandemics, we have the medical tools to better treat those who contract it.


Many of us will contract the virus. Some of us will die as a result, unfortunately. But we also die from the seasonal flu, as have 20,000 Americans so far this season. It’s important to stay informed, but panic is counterproductive. Remember that stress is also bad for your health.


Perspective, information, and preparation are the best ways to approach this outbreak.

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