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How to Prepare for Coronavirus – The New York Times

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American health officials warned on Tuesday that the coronavirus is likely to spread in communities in the United States. They urged individuals to get themselves and their families ready. But what can you do?

Infectious disease experts stressed that people should not panic and offered practical advice.

“The mantra is, ‘Keep calm and carry on,’” said Dr. Marguerite Neill, an infectious disease expert at Brown University.

And use common sense, experts said.

“If you see someone on a bus who is coughing, move away,” said Dr. Stanley Perlman, an infectious disease and coronavirus expert at the University of Iowa.

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The Coronavirus Outbreak

  • What do you need to know? Start here.

    Updated Feb. 25, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      The World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world is not ready for a major outbreak.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. haswarned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all non-essential travel to South Korea and China.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

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Stay home from work if you are sick.

Wash your hands frequently, said Dr. Trish Perl, an infectious disease specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “It’s not super sexy but it works,” she said. With SARS, also a coronavirus, but one that is much deadlier, hand washing reduced the risk of transmission by 30 to 50 percent, she said.

Of course, you should cough into your elbow and dispose of tissues in a wastebasket after you blow your nose. You should keep surfaces in your home clean. Alcohol is a good disinfectant for coronaviruses, Dr. Perl added.

It would be sensible to have a good supply of food staples and necessary medications.

“Don’t wait until the last minute to refill your prescriptions,” Dr. Neill said. “You want to comfortably have at least a 30-day supply.”

With household supplies, she said, make sure you have essentials on hand, like laundry detergent and, if you have small children, diapers, perhaps enough for a month.

She also suggested finding the website for your local health department so you will have a reliable source of news.

Infectious disease specialists strongly recommended flu vaccines and, for older people, the vaccine against pneumococcal pneumonia, although, they added, neither influenza nor the bacterial pneumonia seem to affect a person’s risk of getting a coronavirus infection or becoming seriously ill. But it is possible that the coronavirus, by injuring lung cells, can make it easier for pneumonia to take hold, Dr. Perl said. Avoiding the flu also means you won’t take up the resources of a hospital and the time of health care workers in the event of a coronavirus outbreak.

Parents might want to contact their child’s school system and find out how plans for early dismissals or online instruction would be implemented, should they be necessary.

And people with elderly parents or relatives should plan for a support system in case they fall ill.

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