The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has officially been labeled a global pandemic. While contamination levels in the San Francisco Bay Area aren’t anywhere near those in China, Iran or Italy, they have the potential to escalate within a short time, as was seen in those countries. It’s up to Bay Area residents and municipalities to take steps that minimize the spread of this dangerous disease.
What is coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).” The current strain is considered a “novel coronavirus (nCoV),” which means it hasn’t been previously identified in humans.
One of the biggest difficulties with coronavirus is that its initial symptoms are virtually identical to those of the common cold. Because of this, people who have contracted the disease may not think anything of it. Symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing (severe cases)
How is COVID-19 spread?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), coronavirus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It’s also possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes—however, it should be noted that most experts don’t believe this is the main way the virus spreads.
Guidelines for preventing contamination
Due to its coastal location and dense population, the Bay Area may be more vulnerable to a coronavirus outbreak than other parts of the United States. That’s why it’s imperative for Bay Area residents to be proactive about containment measures. Follow these guidelines to protect yourself from contamination:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the restroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue.
- Avoid large gatherings of people or heavily trafficked locations.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
Watch this video from Johns Hopkins Medicine that demonstrates proper handwashing procedure:
If you’re sick, take measures to self-quarantine. Stay away from work, school, or other people if you exhibit symptoms like fever or cough. If you must leave your home, wear a face mask to protect others from catching your sickness. Contrary to popular belief, face masks are not designed to prevent well people from catching disease but rather to prevent sick people from spreading it.
For more information about COVID-19 and the status of the current pandemic, utilize the following resources:
WHO Coronavirus Info
CDC Coronavirus Info
California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Info