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How to protect against coronavirus

27th February 2020

As the coronavirus (known as COVID-19) continues to spread (now more rapidly around Europe), many people are wondering how to protect themselves from the disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) have released a number of guidance points to help you reduce exposure and transmission.

How does the coronavirus spread?

Like a lot of other viruses, it’s believed that coronavirus is spread through tiny droplets released during a cough or sneeze. These droplets can then either be inhaled or picked up from surfaces by other people, who then become infected too.

Because the virus is new, it’s still not fully understood. However, the general advice is that risk of exposure commences after being within 2 metres of an infected person for longer than 15 minutes.

It seems like the reason that COVID-19 is spreading so quickly is because it has an incubation period of 2-14 days. This means that a person may not show symptoms until 14 days after becoming infected. But during that time, they could still be potentially passing it on to others.

How to protect against coronavirus

Although plenty of people are recovering from the Wuhan coronavirus, it can be deadly for a number of high-risk groups (including the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions). And because prevention is always better than cure, the WHO have released some best practise pointers for helping you to avoid infection.

Wash your hands

Regularity is the key, as your hands can be one of the top carriers of germs and bacteria. This means the standard washing your hands before and after meals, going to the toilet or touching a communal surface, as well as at suitable intervals in between.

For the times you’re unable to wash your hands, you should carry an antibacterial hand sanitiser which will do the same job.

Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing

The ‘catch it bin it kill it’ tagline should come into play here. Coronavirus is carried in droplets released when coughing or sneezing so it’s important to make sure these don’t make their way onto shared surfaces or other people.

Catch the cough or sneeze in a tissue, throw it in the bin and then wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue available, then you should cough or sneeze into your elbow instead of into your hands.

Wear a face mask

Hygiene face masks offer some protection from coronavirus (and other viruses) because they block the virus-carrying droplets. However, they cannot guarantee 100% protection because they do not block all tiny particles.

The WHO guidelines recommend an FFP2 (N95 equivalent) mask which you can buy from UK Meds starting from £19.99. There are a number of styles available with valved ones for more comfortable (and less sweaty) breathing, as well as moulded ones for a closer fit to the skin.

Avoid contact with animals and animal products

This one applies more to those in affected areas, but direct, unprotected contact with animals should be avoided. You should also avoid eating raw or uncooked animal products and be careful to avoid cross-contamination when cooking with such items.

Self-isolate if you have returned from an affected area or are showing symptoms

As the coronavirus spreads faster and faster, more places are qualifying as ‘affected areas’. If you have recently returned home from Asia or Italy then you should follow the necessary advice and self-isolate if it’s recommended. This means staying at home and avoiding all public places for 14 days.

Seek early medical help

If you show symptoms of COVID-19 (such as a cough, fever or difficulty breathing) then it’s important that you don’t go to a medical facility in person. Call 111, share your travel history and follow the advice given.