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What You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Coronavirus

Posted By Amy Long, RN, Monday, February 3, 2020

Headlines are hopping with news about the coronavirus outbreak in China this month. With the ease of international travel in our modern world, it is no surprise that cases of coronavirus are appearing in the United States. Understanding this virus and taking preventative actions are your two best measures to protect yourself from coronavirus.

What is Coronavirus?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report the current outbreak is of 2019 Novel Coronavirus, called 2019-nCoV for short. Symptoms may appear two days to two weeks after exposure to the virus, and people are contagious prior to becoming symptomatic.

2019-nCoV has a reported range from zero symptoms to severe illness and death. Common pneumonia-like symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Passengers wearing respiratory masks during their commute on a subway in China.

How is Coronavirus Transmitted?

This particular virus does not seem to have animal transmission like many other coronaviruses. Person-to-person transmission likely occurs through respiratory droplets. Coughing, sneezing, and exhalation carry a virus in the tiny droplets that are expelled. While people may not be breathing directly on one another, they may leave these carrier droplets on surfaces that others touch. In short, it spreads like the flu.

Take Action to Protect Yourself and Loved Ones

While it may sound too simple, your first, best defense against coronavirus and other viruses is to wash your hands.

Consider everything your hands touch in a day. Desks, pens, shared computer surfaces, telephones, conference tables, printers, door handles—the list of potentially contaminated surfaces in an office is too numerous to list in full. Instead of wrapping everything in paper or wearing nitrile gloves at work, just wash your hands.

person washing their hands in bathroom sink

Review the CDC’s recommendations for handwashing. Wet your hands with clean water. Lather long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” twice, scrubbing under the nails and cleaning the backs of your hands as well. Rinse with clean water. Use a clean towel to dry, or air dry. Viruses seek admittance to your body through your mucous membranes. Don’t touch your face unless your hands have been washed. Wash your hands before eating. Don’t put a pen to your lips or nose to help you think. If you regularly need to brush your hair out of your face, wear it up or back to eliminate possible transmission. Hand sanitizer is no substitute for good handwashing.

Be considerate toward others and stay home if you feel sick. If someone in your office seems to be sick, avoid physical contact completely. Keep a distance of at least three feet when you must be in the same room.

If you do rely on mass transit as part of your commute, wear nitrile gloves and avoid touching yourself above the shoulders until your trip is complete and you can discard the gloves. A thick respiratory mask may help you protect yourself from viruses in a cramped subway car, but a surgical mask won’t offer much protection from flying respiratory particles. You might also consider driving for a few weeks.

Practice Daily Wellness Habits

Because there is no vaccine to protect yourself from coronavirus, it is imperative that you bolster your immune system. Sleep deprivation makes people more susceptible to illness, therefore it is imperative to get adequate high-quality sleep. Good nutrition is essential to maintaining optimal immunity to the germs we are exposed to every day. Choose fresh fruit and vegetables and a lean protein at every meal. Regular exercise such as 30 minutes of brisk walking stimulates the immune system.

Since coronavirus is a lot like the flu, practice standard flu safety. And don’t underestimate the power of handwashing.


Amy Long, RNRegistered Nurse Amy Long has been helping businesses promote work-health balance for 24 years. In 2010, co-founded Orchard At The Office to positively impact the health and wellness of the workforce. 

Tags:  CDC  Coronavirus  flu  virus 

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The Flu Shot and You: Facts Compiled from the CDC Website

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Updated: Monday, September 22, 2014

‘Tis the season when we need to start thinking about getting our flu shots. But what do you need to know and what is different this year from last year?

 

The CDC website (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2014-2015.htm) has extensive information about the flu shot. Some of the key points are summarized below.

General Information

  • The flu season is generally at its peak from December through February, but it can start as early as October and last through May.
  • CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older.
  • Children between 6 months and 8 years may need additional doses of the vaccine. Ask your healthcare provider for details.
  • Ideally people should get vaccinated starting in October.
  • It takes about two weeks after getting vaccinated for the flu antibodies to develop. You are not protected right away!
  • Flu vaccine is produced by private manufacturers, so supply depends on manufacturers. For this season, manufacturers have projected they will provide between 151-159 million doses of vaccine for the U.S. market.
  • You can visit http://flushot.healthmap.org to find a place near you to get a flu shot.
  • The effectiveness of the flu vaccine and the length of time it will protect an individual varies from year to year. For more information visit: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm

Types of vaccinations available:

  • There are several flu vaccine options for the 2014-2015 flu season.
  • Traditional vaccines protect against three different types of flu viruses (a trivalent shot). There is also an option that protects against four types of viruses (a quadrivalent shot).
  • Trivalent shots protect against two influenza A viruses (an H1N1 and an H3N2) and an influenza B virus.
  • Trivalent shots comes in a few different shot forms and are given based on an individual’s age. An intradermal trivalent shot is injected into the skin instead of the muscle and uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot. It is approved for people 18 through 64 years of age. A high-dose trivalent shot is approved for people 65 and older.
  • Most trivalent shot cultures are grown in eggs. There is an egg-free option called a recombinant trivalent shot that is approved for individuals 18-49.
  • The quadrivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.
  • Quadrivalent flu vaccines come in both shot and nasal spray forms. The nasal spray is recommended for people 2 through 49 years of age (recommended preferentially for healthy children ages 2-8). Visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/nasalspray-children.htm for more information about the nasal spray and children.
  • The only recommendation the CDC is making this year is the preference for the quadrivalent nasal spray for healthy children ages 2-8. See above for more information.

What you can do to prevent the spread of the flu:

  • Get vaccinated.
  • Encourage those around you to get vaccinated.
  • Stay away from sick people and encourage sick people to stay away from others until they get better.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze.

Tags:  Flu  October 2014  Physical  Social 

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Feeling Flu’ish? Stay Home and ask to get paid!

Posted By National Wellness Institute, Friday, June 28, 2013

Sick DayA new study released last month (June 2013) further supports the already staggering evidence that sick employees should stay home for the good of the entire workplace. Interestingly, the study takes an additional step in the debate and ties the prevalence of workplace sickness and productivity to the availability of paid sick leave. In a nutshell, employers who offer paid sick leave, says the study, will have a healthier and more productive workplace than those that only allow sick leave without pay.

The study was done by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. It concluded that universal access to paid sick days would reduce flu cases in the workplace by nearly six percent and estimated it to be more effective for small, compared to large, workplaces. The results are reported in the online version of the American Journal of Public Health.

The Centers for Disease Control warn that an infected person can spread the flu virus one day before symptoms are present and up to 5-7 days after the symptoms appear (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm). Many workers, according to the study, are not inclined to miss so much time from work, especially if time off is unpaid. However, the researchers’ simulations showed that allowing all workers access to paid sick days would have the most beneficial reduction in illness occurrences.

The researchers also looked at the impact of sick-specific "flu days,” in which all employees had access to one or two paid days specifically to stay home from work to recover from the flu. Giving employees one flu day resulted in more than a 25 percent decrease in influenza infections due to workplace transmission. A two flu-day policy resulted in a nearly 40 percent decrease. The researchers found that flu days were more effective for larger workplaces, defined as having 500 or more employees.

How to apply this research?

1. Stay home if you are feeling ill.

2. Don’t feel guilty about missing work for the flu, you are actually doing the company and your coworkers a service.

3. If you are in management or a supervisor, encourage the employees you work with the follow this policy.

4. If you have some workers who do not have paid sick leave, consider flu-specific paid leave to keep your company healthy and productive.

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences (2013, June 13). Universal paid sick leave reduces spread of flu. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 14, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2013/06/130613161831.htm

Tags:  Flu  July 2013  Occupational  Physical 

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Looking to Prevent Colds and the Flu this Season? Oral Antiseptic Spray May Be the Answer (Oct. 2012)

Posted By National Wellness Institute, Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Researchers from University Hospitals/Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, discovered an oral antiseptic spray that kills 99.9 percent of airborne germs relating to colds and the flu.

Since there are limited strategies for the prevention of respiratory viruses, researchers decided to study the combination of glycerine, xanthan gum, and cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) in an oral spray called Halo. Glyrcerine and xanthan gum act as a barrier to keep germs from entering the body while CPCdestroys trapped germs. For the experiment, strains of the 2009 H1N1 virus were used to test the effectiveness of the antiseptic oral spray. The researchers discoveredthe spray killed influenza and rhinovirus germs while also destroying 11 strains of whooping cough. Using Halo could benefit society in the prevention and spread of disease especially in cold and flu season since airborne infections most commonly enter the body through the mouth. Using three sprays of Halo in the mouth killed germs for up to six hours even when consuming food and beverages.

As cold and flu season approaches, flu shots are a great preventative method, but Halo could add further protection from these illnesses and assistin keeping individuals healthy all season long.

Article by Kelli Oligney, Associate Editor

References: Medical Xpress. (September 2012). Research finds novel airborne germ-killing oral spray effective in fighting colds and flu. UniversityHospitals Case Medical Center. Retrieved on September 11, 2012, from http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-09-airborne-germ-killing-oral-effective-colds.html

Tags:  Disease  Flu  October 2012  Physical 

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