Your Virus Questions Answered

A couple of days ago, I asked my readers on Instagram to send me their questions about the outbreak. I sent it to my GP team at Columbia Presbyterian here in NYC and got all the answers for you….

Will wearing a face mask prevent us from getting the virus?

The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including the virus. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it or if you are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected.

I received a package from China. Could I get sick from touching the box or the item that I ordered?

There is still a lot that is unknown about the newly emerged virus and how it spreads. In general, because of poor survivability of these viruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Viruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases in the United States associated with imported goods.

Is handwashing enough?

In addition to handwashing you should:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Stay home when you are sick.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

In regards to Handwashing:

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Should we be buying anything to have on hand in case it gets bad?

If an outbreak occurs, people may be asked to stay home to slow the spread of illness. It’s advisable to think through what you need to have in the house if that happened.

Think about what you need on hand if you have to stay home for a couple of weeks, especially food and medications. However, there is no urgency in stocking up. If you’re at the store and you’re shopping, you can buy a couple of extra items just in case.

Can we travel domestically? And what should we do to take precautions on a plane?

Yes, you can travel domestically. Doctors say if you wash frequently and use disinfectant wipes on a plane, you improve your chances of staying germ-free. Airline AC systems use HEPA filters to filter out almost all airborne germs and particles before the air comes out of your ceiling vent. The air coming out of your vent is cleaner than the air around your seat. You should leave the vent on during your flight.

Should we be really nervous?

The risk remains low in the US. People should live their lives normally and go about their normal activities. Most importantly don’t panic; this isn’t a crisis yet.

What symptoms should we look out for?

Symptoms include fever and cough or difficulty breathing, and people can incubate the virus for as long as 14 days before showing symptoms. 

Lastly for up to the minute information please check the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) website.

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