By now you’ve probably heard about the new coronavirus, which first appeared in China in late 2019. Now known as COVID-19, the virus can cause severe respiratory problems in a subset of people. There is a lot we still don’t know about the disease, but we do know that it is likely to spread inside of the U.S. This is potentially disturbing news, but one of the best things we can do is to get ourselves prepared, and to only follow reputable news sources as we continue to learn more.
The Centers for Disease Control is a good place to start. Their COVID-19 page offers a repository of information for a variety of audiences and it is regularly updated. The World Health Organization has a similar site that provides a more global perspective.
Closer to home, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has their own collection of information about the disease. As of February 27, there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Missouri. If and when it appears, it will be a test of the state’s public health infrastructure. Learn more about how Missouri hospitals and the state government are bracing themselves for the virus’ arrival.
So, what can we do to prepare? The CDC has an emergency kit checklist that has good general preparedness advice. Articles like this one from the New York Times offer guidance specific to COVID-19. In general, one of the best things you can do is consistently wash your hands thoroughly for a full 20 seconds. Secondly, if possible, work from home if you’re sick. If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to get a flu shot either.
Given how new the virus is, scientists are still working to understand its basic characteristics, including how easily it is spread and how dangerous it is to the average person. Work is already underway on a vaccine, but it is likely to take more than a year before it’s ready to be deployed. It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious when there is so much uncertainty. With the rise of the internet and social media, misinformation can spread faster than the virus itself. Stick to websites you can trust, follow their medical advice, and take care of some basic preparation for yourself and your family. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the hysteria – remember that knowledge is power.