- US citizens have been told to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak.
- The virus, which originated in China, has started to spread rapidly throughout South Korea, Italy, Japan, and Iran.
- The World Health Organization has so far hesitated to call the outbreak a pandemic, but some health experts say that it is.
- People who want to prepare in advance should keep a two-week supply of food and water and a 30-day supply of prescription medication.
- Other measures, like wearing a face mask, are too extreme unless recommended by a health authority.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Americans got a dire warning from health officials on Tuesday: Prepare for a coronavirus outbreak.
“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on Tuesday. “We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.”
Since then, the Centers for Disease Control have reported several US cases in which patients got the virus unknown sources — they did not travel to China or knowingly interact with anyone who was infected. These instances of community spread suggest the virus is now spreading in the US. The first coronavirus death on US soil was reported on Saturday in Washington state.
Other nations are already facing more severe outbreaks. The virus has infected more than 3,000 people in South Korea and hundreds in Italy, Japan, and Iran.
Nearly 86,000 people have been infected and more than 2,900 people have died in mainland China.
At least 50 million people have been quarantined in China for more than a month, and other nations are initiating lockdowns as the outbreak grows.
The World Health Organization has thus far hesitated to call the virus a pandemic, but some health experts have said it has already reached that status. Either way, Bruce Aylward, a public-health expert with the WHO, said the world is “simply not ready” to contain the outbreak.
Here’s what you can do to prepare.
Keep a two-week supply of food and water.
The US Department of Homeland Security recommends storing up enough food and water for two weeks before a pandemic strikes.
Ian Mackay, a virologist at the University of Queensland, recently advised people in a blog post to purchase food items that won’t go bad, such as dried fruit and nuts, canned fish and vegetables, beans, coffee, cereal, and pasta.
When fresh food starts to get scarce, he added, it could be time to buy perishable items like bread, milk, eggs, and yogurt — but only as a last-minute precaution.
Stock up on over-the-counter medication, toilet paper, laundry detergent, and pet food.
In his blog post, Mackay advised purchasing a few extra items each time you make a trip to the store.
“Don’t buy things you won’t eat later, don’t hoard, and don’t buy more than you’ll need for a two-week period,” Mackay wrote. “We’re not talking zombie apocalypse and we very probably won’t see power or water interruptions either.”
Have copies of your medical records handy.
The Department of Homeland Security advises US citizens to prepare copies and electronic versions of their health records.
Coronavirus patients with heart disease, for instance, had around a 10% mortality rate, while those with diabetes had around a 7% mortality rate.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, making sure to scrub for at least 20 seconds.
Coronaviruses can spread between people through respiratory droplets such as saliva and mucus, so good hygiene is critical to prevent transmission.
Soap and water are the best ways to protect yourself from germs, but the next-best option is an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60% to 95% alcohol. The CDC also recommends that people refrain from touching their eyes, nose, or mouth as much as possible.
If you develop respiratory symptoms, the CDC advises you to stay home so you don’t infect others. Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you have to cough or sneeze could also prevent others from getting sick.
Continue healthy habits like exercising, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of sleep.
The Department of Homeland Security recommends being physically active, getting lots of rest, managing stress, drinking fluids, and eating nutritious food as a way to strengthen your immune system.
While there is no cure for COVID-19, a healthy immune system can improve your body’s ability to fight off infection.
Stay at least 6 feet away from people who display symptoms such as a dry cough or sneezing.
On Tuesday, Messonier said that US citizens may eventually have to practice “social distancing measures,” like working from home or staying away from school.
Eventually, citizens may be asked to avoid public gatherings like concerts or sporting events.
That’s already a requirement in some nations outside China: Japan has closed all elementary, junior high, and high schools until early April. Iran has closed all universities for one week and banned public gatherings like weddings, concerts, and sports games through March. Italy has also banned public events in 11 towns.