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HEALTH WATCH: Preventing the coronavirus and flu

By Rita Stewart

County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

The World Health Organization declared coronavirus a “public health emergency of international concern” on Jan. 30, 2020.  While the coronavirus is infectious, that should not cause panic in Kentucky. The immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is believed to be low at this time, and everyone can do their part to help respond to this emerging public health threat.

Our real concern should be the influenza or flu virus, which is very active in the U.S. right now. Already this flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 15 million people in the U.S. have gotten sick with flu. More than 150,000 Americans have been hospitalized, and more than 8,000 people have died from their infection.

The best recommendations for Americans who are worried about their health is to practice proper flu season hygiene, including frequent hand-washing, covering coughs, and being vaccinated. A flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and others against the flu. If you have not gotten your flu shot yet this year, it is not too late; the CDC still recommends being vaccinated this season.

Prevention

While there is a flu vaccine, there is no vaccine yet for the coronavirus. However, the CDC recommends using these preventive steps and habits to prevent the spread of the flu, coronavirus, and several other viruses.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

People who think they may have been exposed to the coronavirus should contact their health-care provider immediately.

coronavirus, but the flu is a bigger threat here in the U.S. We have recommendations for preventing infectious illnesses including coronavirus, flu, and others.