A major concern for many people right now is the expanding threat of coronavirus. As we watch the news roll in and the death counts increase by the end of the week, it’s hard not to give into the hysteria. However, the best way to remain calm is to educate yourself with the facts.

What is Coronavirus? 

Coronavirus is simply a new respiratory disease that originated in China in late 2019. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the virus is named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes is named coronavirus disease 2019. The disease name is sometimes abbreviated to COVID-19, but most people are generally referring to any part of this situation as simply coronavirus. It was first spotted in Wuhan, China, where animal-to-person transmission is suspected. Over time, more cases have shown evidence of person-to-person contact, and we know the disease can travel through the transfer of mucus or saliva. The disease can transfer from person to person through one’s eyes, nose, or mouth. If you are close enough (within 6 feet) to a person who is sick and their respiratory droplets come into contact with you, there’s a good chance you will contract the virus.

What Are The Symptoms?

Fever, cough, and breathing issues are the main symptoms. Some patients with coronavirus have reported flu-like symptoms. However, there have also been people who have tested positive while being asymptomatic, or without any obvious symptoms. Overall, the common denominators seem to be a high fever, constant cough, and trouble breathing.

Who Is Most At Risk?

Coronavirus has already attacked people of all ages, but the most susceptible individuals to this threat are the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions that already compromise their immune systems. We have seen how rampant the virus can spread to the elderly with the case of a nursing home in Washington that reported almost 10 infected patients within days.

Is Coronavirus in Florida?

Yes, as of March 5, five residents have tested positive for coronavirus. All five residents recently traveled through Florida. Now, there are those who test positive and those who have been confirmed positive by the CDC. So far, only four cases have been confirmed for Florida by the CDC. Those include two cases include a 60 year old man in Manatee County who has not traveled out of country recently, a 72 year old man you has underlying medical conditions and traveled internationally, a 20 year old woman from Hillsborough County who recently traveled through Northern Italy and her 29 year old sister. Overall, the current threat to Florida is low but you should still practice preventative care.

How Can I Protect Myself Against Coronavirus? 

First things first, wash your hands. Spend at least 20 seconds washing, or sing the Happy Birthday song twice to make sure you’re washing long enough for it to matter. If you use hand sanitizer, make sure it’s at least 60% alcohol.

Next, stop touching your face. We all do it, and it’s a difficult habit to break. But, your hands come into contact with all sorts of objects and people throughout the day. If your eyes, nose, and mouth are the gateways for the disease to enter your body, then you must keep your hands away from those areas as much as possible.

Also, avoid close contact with people who are sick. A distance of six feet is suggested between you and anyone who is infected. Seriously consider avoiding places that usually experience a lot of foot traffic like shopping malls, nightlife spots, and parks or indoor play areas for children.

Lastly, consider changing up traditions that prompt you to come into close contact with others. For example, many churches have already asked members to stop shaking hands while greeting each other and to refrain from practicing intinction, or the Eucharistic practice of dipping the communion bread into the communion wine cup. Additionally, the NBA has released a statement warning its fans that players have been instructed to give fist-bumps instead of high-fives. We are seeing preventative shifts even in our cultures.

What If I Have an Upcoming Flight? 

First, check the CDC’s website here to see how badly your destination has been hit. Depending on how many cases have been reported for that location, you may need to cancel or reschedule your trip for a later date.

If your location seems to be fine, you can still take your flight. The New York Times reports a new trend of wiping down airplane seats with antibacterial wipes. While this is a good idea, the medical professionals strongly emphasize that this practice must be done in addition to proper hand hygiene. No additional effort to clean surfaces should replace the importance of washing your hands properly. Do not let cleaning surfaces become more important than hand hygiene. Studies also show that people who opt for a window seat are less likely to interact with infected individuals than those in middle or aisle seats. To further protect yourself on a flight, you should stay seated, stay hydrated, and use tissues to touch the touch screens and surfaces around you.

What Do I Do If I’m Sick?

Stay home as much as possible. Sneeze or cough into your elbow when tissues are not available. If you have tissues, sneeze or cough into those and trash them immediately. Regularly disinfect surfaces you touch, especially if they are in common areas of your home. Try to isolate yourself to a specific part of your house to keep the rest of those in your home healthy. Do not allow others to get within six feet of you, if you can. While this unofficial form of self-quarantine may be boring, you can use it as a time to rest or take up a new hobby.

Testing centers have been set up in Jacksonville, Tampa, and Miami with tens of thousands of testing kits on their way from the federal government. If you think you might have coronavirus or have questions about the disease, you can call the Department of Health’s COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121 during the work week hours of 8 AM to 5 PM.

As always, continue to be vigilant about hand hygiene and check CDC updates regularly.