Prevention for the Public

There is ample false information about COVID-19 and prevention making the rounds online.  Here is what you need to know.

COVID-19 is a virus that causes an influenza-like (flu-like) symptoms.  The symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These can show up 2-14 days after you are infected with the virus. Because of the delay in symptoms, it is important that take steps to stay away from other people if you have been exposed to the virus even if you don’t have symptoms. See my So You've Been Exposed to COVID-19 post for more info.

COVID-19 is a virus that is spread several ways.

  1. Respiratory/droplet spread.  This occurs when someone sneezes or coughs. Microscopic drops of mucus and saliva are suspended in the air.  Breathing in these droplets can cause COVID-19.
  2. Contact with surfaces contaminated with COVID-19.  This includes touching surfaces such as door handles as well as shaking hands, etc.
  3. COVID-19 has been found in stool and can likely be spread by direct contact with feces.
  4. Some pets have tested positive for COVID-19 but it isn’t clear that they can pass on the virus. See here for more information.

How can I protect myself and my family from COVID-19? 

  1. Masks: You do not need to wear a mask unless you are sick or taking care of someone with symptoms.  Is there any harm to wearing a mask?  Yes!  There are not enough masks for those taking care of the sick.  If doctors, nurses, and those caring for the sick cannot get masks, it can lead to a worsening epidemic putting you and your family at higher risk.  See here for more information on mask use.
  2. Avoid close contact with others.  Ideally, stay 6 feet away from other people when you are in public.  This is the time to skip optional shopping, going to church/mosque/synagogue/temple, meetings, conferences, movies, sporting events, etc.  In some cases, schools and daycare have been closed.  Follow the instructions of your health department and school district.  Those over 60 who have health problems should avoid flying if at all possible.
  3. Avoid shaking hands and if you do, wash your hand immediately after.
  4. Avoid touching your face and wash your hands before doing so!  You are less likely to get the virus if you don’t touch your face.  This does not mean that you can’t wash, brush your teeth, etc.  Just be sure to wash and disinfect your hands before doing so,
  5. The CDC recommends the following procedure for hand washing:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or 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.
  6. Avoid visiting nursing homes, hospitals and other long-term-care facilities, especially if you are sick.  Limiting visitors helps keep the patients safe.
  7. Avoid the Emergency Department and doctors’, physician assistants’ and nurse practitioners’ office unless you are sick.  If you have fever, cough or shortness-of-breath call ahead to let them know you are coming so they can prepare.  If you call an ambulance, let them know if you are having Covid-19 symptoms.
  8. Stay home if you are sick.  We all feel bad when we have to make our fellow workers have to do extra work if we are sick.  But you will be doing your fellow workers a favor if you stay away from work when sick.
  9. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.  Use a disposable tissue and throw it away right away.  Wash your hands immediately with soap and water for 20 seconds and, if possible, use hand sanitizer!!  Why not a handkerchief? They can hold the virus making it more likely to spread if someone touches the handkerchief (such as when doing laundry).
  10. Clean and disinfect things that are frequently touched such as tables, toilets, keyboards, faucets, sinks, desks, etc. Do this at least once a day or more often. Use a paper towel when opening the bathroom door to avoid contact with the door handle.
  11. My store is out of disinfectant. What can I use to disinfect surfaces (not hands!)?  The CDC recommends the following:

Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface. However, some of these can be expensive.  Consider the following recommended by the CDC.

Options include:

  • Diluting your household bleach. To make a bleach solution, mix:
    • 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water OR
    • 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.

  • Alcohol solutions. Ensure solution has at least 70% alcohol. Most alcohol solutions (“rubbing alcohol”, “isopropyl alcohol”) sold in drug stores, etc. are 70% alcohol or more. But make sure to check the label.

For more, see the CDC guidelines on How to Protect Yourself (last updated on March 14, 2020).


Go to the profile of Medical Books and Resources

Is point no. 10 really meant for all? It's not very easy to comply with. 

Go to the profile of Mark Graber (MD, MSHCE, FACEP)

Greetings from Iowa!  Yes, point 10 (cleaning surfaces) is suggested for everyone.  Part of the frequency depends on your risk of exposure.  If you have been in your house and nobody else has been in your house the risk of surface transmission would be low.  If someone is going out to work or for groceries, you risk is going to be higher and cleaning surfaces can prevent transmission.

Stay safe!