Viruses have the possibility to spread to almost every country on Earth, as they have a greater probability of mutation than bacteria do. While some viruses can be compared to the flu, others have a mortality rate of up to ten times higher than influenza, and can be transmitted from person to person by water droplets in the air, making them particularly contagious.
However, just as not everyone catches the flu in the winter, there are a number of steps that can be taken to limit your exposure to any easily transmittable virus.
1. Practice Social Distancing
One of the two most important steps that a person can take to avoid getting infected or infecting anyone else is to practice so-called ‘social distancing.’ This involves simply staying away from people in public, but goes a bit deeper. Typically, meetings in the West begin and end with a handshake; some Mediterranean countries even use two or three kisses on the cheek. This should not be the case. While some may suggest a ‘business fist bump,’ simply a wave or a slight nod of acknowledgement do the job.
Even beyond actually meeting with someone, social distancing also applies to behavior in crowds. Keep an adequate distance between others in public, especially in lines to check out at a retailer or at a bus stop.
2. Hand Sanitizer or Hand Washing?
Regardless of how well one is doing when it comes to social distancing, the most important factor to limit exposure to viruses is frequent handwashing. Use warm water and soap, scrubbing all areas of the hands, while making sure to do so for twenty seconds. A number of mnemonics exist for knowing how long to wash; some may choose to sing ‘happy birthday’ twice. It is not important if the soap is antibacterial or not when we are dealing with a virus. Instead, the simple act of being thorough and dislodging any particles on the hands, sending them down the drain, is what is important.
A common question is if using hand sanitizer is as good as washing hands. The fact is that because the two work in different methods, they can be used to complement one another. Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol kills viruses on the hands. However, because of the physiology of viruses, a dead virus can still weaken the immune system; they act by replicating their DNA, not by necessarily multiplying like bacteria. Therefore, it is best to use hand sanitizer, then wash one’s hands.
3. Work from Home
For most people, the reason to go out of the house every day is to go to work. Increasingly, companies are understanding that a key part of limiting their exposure to viruses is to let people stay at home. Internet connections mean that anyone in the services sectors, which make up many jobs in the United States, will be able to work from home with ease.
For those who do not have this option, there is no need for hysterics. Simple hand washing and hand sanitation, as well as social distancing while in the workplace, will help greatly reduce chances of infection.
4. Minimize Trips Out of the House
Whether or not working from home is practical, other steps should be taken to limit trips outside of the house. A person’s home offers them the greatest opportunity to practice social distancing, while also making sure that they are able to self-isolate if they begin to show symptoms.
This is especially true for those who may present with illness during this period. Luckily, many health insurance providers offer teleconferencing with doctors; combined with drive-thru pharmacies, there is little need to leave the house or the car.
5. Don’t Give into Wipe Hysteria
One thing that has proven to be largely ineffective, despite considerable hysteria to the contrary, are antimicrobial wipes, especially bleach wipes. For a full disinfection to happen, a surface must stay wet from the wipe for a matter of minutes. While these wipes offer some protection against the water droplets that can harbor viruses, they are no replacement for hand washing. As such, if they are not available, it is no cause for alarm.
6. Order Groceries
One of the most simple methods that can be used to practice social distancing, while also increasing efficiencies in the aggregate, is to order groceries online. By doing so, stores have 24-48 hours to better anticipate needs. Additionally, it reduces foot traffic in each store, increasing the effectiveness of social distancing for those inside.
This is especially true for those who work in grocery stores. Unlike many other people, there is little chance of working at home for them. As such, helping to be sure that they are exposed to fewer people, and have more room to spread out from others, does them a considerable service. Additionally, it helps to make sure that testing and treatment resources can be allocated to those who need them most, rather than just those looking to browse the clearance section.
7. Workout at Home
Likewise, the gym is a place that is likely best avoided. Gyms are hives for infectious diseases in the best of times, due to the sheer amount of sweat involved. By working out at home, individuals can eliminate their exposure to such bodily fluids. Additionally, many gyms already offer guided workouts, be they aerobics, bodyweight, or yoga, online to their members.
8. Socialize Online
Finally, socializing online is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family while largely eliminating the chance for transmission. While even having a few friends over may seem to be no big deal, the fact that those friends come in contact with others outside of said circle means that any group will soon have exposure from others. Texting, calls, and videoconferencing services allow people to speak easily to one another, and some even permit multiple people on each line at a time.
There is no doubt that some viruses pose a threat to humans. However, with a few common-sense steps, they are easily avoided, helping health systems focus on keeping more people healthy.