Stay Healthy

03 Feb 2020 2:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

At the time of writing this, the New Lunar Year holidays are ending and they have been dampened by the presence of a new version of the coronavirus, presently referred to in English as Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). As of this morning, February 3rd 2020, 360 people in China and one person in the Philippines have died and over 14550 people have been infected around the globe, including 20 in Japan. A coronavirus is one of the types of viruses responsible for the common cold. It is also responsible for more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A Novel Coronavirus is a new strain of the coronavirus that has not been identified in humans previously. People of all ages can be infected with the coronavirus but, as with most illnesses, people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are more at risk of becoming severely ill. 

The main concern when it comes to complications from respiratory infections, such as the novel coronavirus, the common cold and influenza, is that they can develop into viral pneumonia which is hard to fight off if you are already in poor health. Colds can also put you at risk for developing bacterial pneumonia, which can be treated with antibiotics, viral pneumonia cannot. Viral pneumonia can only be treated with rest, fluids and lung function support if hospitalized. Other complications of colds and influenza include dehydration, bronchitis, ear infection, sinus infection and heart complications such as pericarditis and myocarditis. 

Before we look at how to prevent ourselves from getting sick or start panicking about the novel coronavirus, let’s take a look at the mortality rates for respiratory illnesses:  

  • Novel Coronavirus, unknown at the moment but current estimates are putting it at around 2% with high-end estimates around 4%

  • Common cold, not typically fatal - presumably those who die from what starts out as a common cold are likely at risk individuals who go on to develop pneumonia or other complications so it is hard to find clear statistics on its mortality rate.

  • Seasonal Influenza, varies depending on the season and the strain, often around 1%

  • SARS, 10%

  • MERS, 30%

Even if you have no preexisting conditions or other risk factors, no one likes getting sick. The novel coronavirus, the common cold and influenza, all spread through the air via particles from an infected person’s cough or sneeze; by close contact, such as shaking hands or touching an infected person; by touching surfaces with viral particles on them and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands; in rare cases, from fecal contamination. 

The best ways to avoid getting a respiratory illness include:

  • Avoid close contact with people suffering from respiratory infections 

  • Frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after contact with ill people or their environment

  • Try to avoid large crowds

  • Avoid touching surfaces with your bare hands if you can - try wearing gloves while you’re out and about, or using your elbow to open doors when possible

  • Do not to touch your face 

  • Stand far away from people who are coughing and sneezing - droplets from coughs can travel up to six metres and up to eight metres from sneezes

  • Don’t smoke 

  • Get enough sleep

  • Eat a healthy nutrient rich diet - a rainbow of plants, mostly whole foods, adequate calories

  • Maintain a healthy home environment - a comfortable temperature, no mold/allergens, frequently clean and disinfect surfaces if a member of your family is sick

  • Minimize stress - try relaxation techniques and don’t panic over the new coronavirus!

  • Exercise

  • Get vaccinated against influenza

Masks will not protect you from the novel coronavirus as they are not designed to prevent virus particles from penetrating them. To make matters worse, masks may encourage infection as they are a breeding ground for bacteria and may also cause you to touch your face more with dirty hands to adjust your mask. Gargling has been promoted in Japan as trusted measure against getting sick but American experts disagree with its effectiveness. 

Symptoms of coronavirus include cough, fever, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Symptoms may appear between 2 and 14 days after exposure, with an average of appearing 5 days after being infected. Symptoms of influenza include fever or feeling feverish, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache and body aches accompanied by fatigue, stomach-upset may occur, especially in children.

If you find yourself feeling under the weather, there is no specific treatment for coronavirus infections and most people recover with rest and plenty of fluids. You can treat symptoms with over-the-counter medication and by using a humidifier. If you think you have influenza there are antiviral medications available from your doctor that can help lessen its severity and duration. When seeking treatment be sure to inform your doctor if there is a possibility that you have been exposed to the novel coronavirus so that the outbreak can be traced as accurately as possible. 

If you are sick, please stay home and rest, not only to help yourself recover but in order to prevent the infection from spreading. Practice good etiquette by maintaining distance from people, cover coughs and sneezes with tissues and then dispose of them promptly, if you don’t have a tissue handy, sneeze into your elbow rather than your bare hand (do not sneeze as noisily as possible into the air, which is a popular bad habit of a certain demographic in Japan). Masks may be helpful for catching droplets from coughs and sneezes if they are worn correctly with a tight fit and the elastics on the outside of the mask, not against the skin of your face which will cause gaps; they must be changed frequently and remember not to touch your dirty mask and then touch other surfaces without washing your hands. 

Be sure to seek medical help if you have a pre-existing condition that puts you at increased risk of developing pneumonia or other complications, or if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain

  • An auxiliary (armpit) temperature of 38.5

  • Confusion in people over 65 years old

  • Difficulty breathing 

  • Rapid breathing 

  • Can’t sleep or consume adequate liquids/foods

  • Severe pain 

At the moment there is no need to panic over the Novel Coronavirus but it is still important to take the same precautions against infections as you normally would during cold and flu season. Stay informed on the latest developments on the spread of novel coronavirus but remember not to let media hype stress you out as that will make you more susceptible to infection! 

By: S.Suzuyama

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