Why We Need a Consistent, Science-Backed Approach to Coronavirus
March 9, 2020 / Corporate Wellness
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The world has been anxiously watching as the number of cases of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to rise. We are in a collective state of heightened awareness. In my medical career, I’ve never seen a new disease receive as much concern and media presence — which is both helping and hindering in different ways. The political, economic, business and social ramifications are immense, but the immediate access to educational resources is necessary to control the spread of the disease. Due to the size and scale of the impacts this coronavirus is having, organizations need to prepare themselves accordingly.
Take A Unified, Science-Backed Approach to Coronavirus
To prepare accordingly, organizations and individuals need to first look beyond the media hype and get an accurate picture of their relative risk.
Over a medical career spanning 47 years, 30 of which I have been a Registered Specialist in occupational medicine, I have seen previous Zoonoses (a disease which originates in animals or birds and passed to humans). We have faced diseases like coronavirus before. For example, other viruses that came from other species and transmitted to humans include HIV, SARS, MERS, Zika, Ebola Anthrax and Dengue Fever.
I advise everyone to address and mitigate their risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19. Simultaneously, I want people to prepare themselves for COVID-19 related issues, some of which are causing me great concern. For example, the spread of misinformation, misleading information, false information is contributing to increasing levels of anxiety, depression, stress, hysteria, social isolation, panic shopping and hostility between people.
To successfully manage the current situation, we must have a consistent and coordinated approach based on science, medicine (both preventive and treatment), political strength and acceptance. A science-backed, common sense approach has worked in the past, and it will work now. It’s time to avoid our differences and act together.
COVID-19: Current Impact
As of March 9th, 2020, there have been 111,363 (81,000 In mainland China) cases in 105 countries. More than 3800 people have died and over 62,000 fully recovered to date. Many deaths have occurred in people over the age of 70 and with pre-existing diseases.
Unfortunately, the virus can be very serious for those with existing diseases, such as respiratory illnesses, heart conditions or diabetes. The number of cases is also filling beds in hospitals and stressing our healthcare systems. As serious as COVID-19 is, it’s important to note that in the 2018-19 Influenza season there were 10 million cases worldwide and 500,000 deaths. Yet there was nowhere near the same amount of media coverage or panic. We are still seeing patients for the 2020 Influenza season and it’s adding to the impact on our healthcare facilities.
Get full access to the COVID-19 Awareness toolkit below
The symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- General feeling unwell
- Night sweats
- Tight chest
- Difficulty breathing
- Dry cough
The symptoms of a common cold or influenza are fever, general feeling unwell, sore throat, sneezing and a cough. If you have these symptoms and haven’t been to a high-risk area nor had face-to-face contact with someone that has, it’s more likely you have a common cold. If you are exhibiting symptoms or are concerned you may have contracted the virus, avoid contact with others and phone your doctor or a health clinic for advice. Remain calm and follow the guidance of the medical community.
A high media presence often creates complexity, worry, panic and unnecessary anxiety. We are grappling with a new virus that is spreading quickly and can have a poor outcome for some vulnerable members of society. Currently, there is no treatment for the virus and no vaccine is likely to be available until 2021, so it’s important to take precautions and reduce your risk.
Tips to Manage Risk and Impact to Those Around You
Get the Facts
- Know the facts and keep your relative risk in perspective.
- Avoid using unsubstantiated reference sources like social media or unverified news sites. Refer to the WHO’s guidance on workplace safety and preparedness and other verified sources listed below.
Practice Self-Care and Good Hygiene
- The virus is spread through coughing, sneezing and creating droplet spread. It can live on hard surfaces such as desks and door handles — which are probably your biggest risk. The best method of prevention is to wash your hands regularly, especially at work and in public places. Avoid hand to mouth and hand to nose contact and take extra precaution after being in shared spaces. Evidence shows that these simple actions can reduce your risk considerably.
- Keep fit and well — get regular exercise, stay hydrated, eat well and aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
- If you do develop symptoms, call, but do not visit, your local doctor.
- There is no evidence that masks decrease your chances of contracting the virus. They may even increase your risk. A suitable mask would need to be of industrial quality, fit tightly across mouth and nose. Paper and cloth masks don’t meet this requirement. Mass purchases of these masks are impacting supplies for doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals, putting them and their patients at risk.
- When sneezing, rather than into your hand, try and remember to sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your elbow. If you do sneeze into your hands wash them ASAP and avoid other hand contacts until you’ve done so.
- Check-in on your elderly relatives, neighbors or those you know who have chronic medical conditions. Social isolation and fear can have negative effects on health. If you’re feeling under the weather, keep in contact by telephone, Skype and so on.
Follow Guidelines and Procedures
- Do not travel to an area of infection and take note of travel advice from your usual sources of national travel advisories.
- Adhere to your company procedures and if in doubt, seek help and stay away from colleagues until advice been given from a medical professional.
- If you’ve visited China, Iran, Iran, Japan, or a country with an outbreak as defined under WHO guidelines, avoid contact with others and call your doctor for advice. If you did have the virus, going into a public place can spread the disease to others.
For people in China, Iran and Italy and other areas where the virus has spread quickly, it’s a scary and uncertain time. But, depending on where you’re located, the risk for many of us remains quite low.
Despite this, media reports are keeping anxiety levels high. My advice is to keep fit, look at the risk in perspective, get your flu shot, keep up to date with country-by-country advice if traveling, but above all — regularly wash your hands — and not just for coronavirus, but for all the other viruses and bacteria that lurk around us. With the right response, we can control the spread of COVID-19 and help everyone around us stay healthy.
Additional COVID-19 Resources
- Expert Q&A: Coronavirus and Employee Health and Wellbeing
- COVID-19 Awareness Toolkit
- World Health Organization
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Coronavirus COVID-19 : Online Dashboard by John Hopkins University
- British Medical Journal resource center
- The Lancet Coronavirus resource center