As the coronavirus continues to spread globally, many individuals find themselves helpless amongst this growing pandemic. With the world on edge, people throughout the globe are looking to their leaders for answers. Here in the US, we too are seeking leadership from our politicians, yet they themselves are still struggling to fully understand and control this growing crisis. Unfortunately, the number of coronavirus cases is rising on a daily basis both worldwide and within our nation. It will continue to rise as the CDC expects that widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur. Yet, this does not mean that we are incapable of taking measures to prevent further fatalities. While we are not epidemiologists and cannot predict the coming future, we can each take our own initiative to further ensure the safety of our families and communities.
Origins, Spread & Facts
The first documented cases of the “coronavirus disease 19” or COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, China towards the end of last year in November. A rapidly growing number of people were developing a cough and strange case of what was then thought of as pneumonia, and for some, it turned fatal. Due to the Chinese government’s lack of initial response and their efforts to silence medical officials, the disease began to spread rapidly throughout the nation. By the turn of the new year, the Chinese government finally acknowledged that they had a problem. Doctors named the illness COVID-19 or coronavirus disease, 2019, indicating that a type of virus was causing respiratory illness. As officials tried to trace this unknown virus’ origins, they found a likely source, the Huanan Market (a food market) in Wuhan, China. Out of the 41 patients initially affected by this virus, 27 had been at this food market and as a result, the market was shut down.
The virus is thought to have been originally transmitted from animal to animal and then animal to human. Evidence indicates that the origins of the coronavirus are thought to be from a bat, then transferred to a pangolin and until it eventually infected a human. This is rare. The transferring of animal disease to a human is incredibly rare. And yet it happened.
The Huanan Market is (or was) a seafood and live animal market. The conditions in which these live animals were contained were not ideal. It was common practice to stack cages of both live and dead animals on top of one another with unknown liquids and contaminants trickling down to the bottom cages… Live animals were slaughtered and thus sold on-site for immediate consumption without any safety or health precautions enforced. This wide range of animals was and is a breeding ground for disease as viruses easily jumped from one animal to the next. If that animal came in contact with a human or was consumed by a human, the virus could well have infected the human…. And now we’re here. The initial persons that were infected unknowingly infected others creating a cycle that led up to a Chinese nationwide outbreak, and then an epidemic and now a pandemic.
The Chinese government then decided to act aggressively, establishing lockdown measures for nearly 50 million people. This, in turn, helped to control or slow down the spread of the virus over time. Confirmed cases in China have doubled within the last 34 days, whereas in the US, cases have doubled within the past 4 days. Yes, this is concerning, yet, we as individuals are not helpless. In times like these, it may seem best to look towards our leaders for advice, however it too may be best to do otherwise. Our governmental officials are struggling to control and understand the crisis at hand and the monstrosity that is to come, so it is our responsibility as individuals to take proper course.
What can we do as citizens?
As nationwide anxiety increases, the race to create a vaccine and control the coronavirus continues. It’s a part of human nature to look towards our leaders for support, yet at times they too do not have the answers. However, that does not mean we are without hope or guidance. In times of uncertainty, it is up to us as individuals to take the proper course of action for the health and wellbeing of our families and communities.
Know the Signs and Symptoms
First and foremost, educate yourself, family and community. In times of crisis, community support is vital for the well-being of both yourself and your neighbors. Take it upon yourself to first find local information regarding the trends and cases within your respective area and act accordingly. Educate your family on the signs and symptoms of the coronavirus. Reported illnesses have a range of mild symptoms, but the most common normally appear within 2-14 days after initial exposure: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. However, there are emergency signs to take into account; difficulty of breathing or intense shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arise, bluish lips or face. These are several emergency signs that require immediate medical attention. Understand both the mild and severe signs and symptoms and ensure that your family is not exhibiting any of these signs and or symptoms.
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to coronavirus and if you believe that you have been possible in contact with the virus, contact your medical provider to get tested. This virus (while originally spread from animal to human), is thought to be mainly spread through person to person. Medical experts believe that this virus is spread between people in close contact with one another; within six feet of contact through an infected person’s respiratory droplets (i.e. coughs or sneezes). Once these droplets have made contact with a person’s mouth or nose, these droplets can be inhaled into the lungs, thus infecting others. In order to prevent this transfer to the lungs, it is important that you continuously, religiously, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public space or after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, etc. If soap and water are not at your disposal, purchase a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol to keep on your person. And as always, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands (and avoid others from doing such as well).
Create a Plan of Action
As advised by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, before a COVID-19 outbreak occurs in your community, create a proper plan of action.
1. Begin a Discourse and Create an Emergency Contact List; contact your household members, relatives, and friends to create a plan of action. Ensure that each member has a current list of emergency contacts (i.e. friends, family, health care providers, teachers, employers, neighbors, etc.) Also, take into account each persons’ specific needs and health conditions.
2. Create a Rapport with your Neighbors; talk to your neighbors to create a community plan. If possible, create a community Facebook page to stay in contact with one another to ensure each neighbor has access to important information as well as resources.
3. Identify Organizations within your Community that Provide Help; extra health care, food, and supplies can be expensive if you are without insurance or in need. Create a list of local organizations that provide aid in times of crisis, moreover, send this list out to your friends and family if they too are in need.
Take Actions if at Higher Risk
Take it upon yourself to ensure high-risk members within your family and community are taking preventive actions. Higher risk individuals are those of already compromised health or of older age. If you or someone you know is at risk of getting sick, take the following actions to prevent exposure to the virus:
1. Have Supplies Readily; this includes any necessary medications, prescriptions, over the counter medicine and medical supplies. This too includes household items and groceries for long periods of self-isolation.
2. Take Everyday Precautions; the same precautions previously stated, clean your hands often, avoid touching your face, keep at least 6 feet of space between yourself and others, avoid crowds and all nonessential travel.
3. During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home and consider ways of getting food brought to your house via family members, and social or commercial networks (such as churches, local stores, etc.)
Stay Informed, but be Wise
It is also to stay informed via trustworthy news sources such as your local news or sources such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization. Don’t let the news media or social media feed you further panic. Panic or stress lowers your immune system which in turn can make you more prone to sickness. For your own sake and well being, be wary of where you receive further developments on the coronavirus.
Support your Local Community
It’s easy to run into panic and shut yourself away from others whilst in a pandemic, yes it is best to avoid unnecessary contact, however, that does not mean you cannot check up on neighbors via phone calls, community social media groups and or contained community meetings. In an effort to prevent the coronavirus from entering or spreading throughout your community, ensure everyone is educated on the severity, signs and symptoms and preventive measures for the local health and well being.
Also, ensure that the elders within your community have support. Know what medications they are taking and have needs for, also make sure that they have a stock of food and other medical supplies. Furthermore, if your loved ones or community members are living in a care facility or senior living facility, be certain that the health of the residents is of priority and there is a proper protocol in place prior to a potential outbreak.
What to do if You’re Sick
If you have fallen ill or are presenting the common signs and symptoms of the coronavirus, stay home and contact your local doctor. Inform them that you are exhibiting the common symptoms of the coronavirus and ask them for further instructions. If you are not sick enough to be hospitalized, you can recover at home, however, do not forget the prevention measures to ensure any further spreading of the virus. If you are only exhibiting mild symptoms, stay at home and avoid public areas as well as public transportation. Isolate yourself from others for the sake of your family, friends, and community. Wear a facemask to prevent further spreading and possible contamination. Cover your coughs and sneezes and do not forget to keep your hands clean and avoid touching others or surfaces. Do not share personal household items and after recovery, ensure to clean and disinfect your household to prevent further contamination. Furthermore, do not leave your home until instructed by your healthcare provider.
Call 911 if you have a medical emergency, notify dispatch of the severity of your situation and if possible, put on a facemask before emergency medical services arrive.
It is our duty as individuals and citizens of the US and world to be proactive. As our leaders attempt to make sense of the situation and prepare for the coming future, it is up to us alone to secure our now. We’re in a pandemic. And it can seem scary but we owe it to ourselves, family, friends, and community to be proactive and take action now. We can’t and shouldn’t always wait for the government to decide the next course of action, especially when we are fully capable of controlling the spread (or maintaining the health) within our individual communities. Wherever you may be, take this all into account and be the leader your family or community needs.
World Health Organization, Coronavirus disease 2019
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, How to Prepare
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Situation Summary
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Cases in the US
Our World Data, Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Statistics and Research