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Chioma Ozoemelam: Protecting Yourself in the Midst of a Pandemic

If you have symptoms and need to see a physician, put a call through to your health care provider, so they can direct you to the right health facility or take appropriate precautions to treat you and stop the spread to other people.

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Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has infiltrated headlines and has caused panic all around the world. The news of the first confirmed case in Lagos, Nigeria caused a lot of concern. According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, a total of 15 suspected cases have been identified across 4 states in Nigeria, out of which 1 was confirmed positive (index case) with no death. In Lagos and Ogun State, there are 21 and 35 contacts under follow-up respectively.

What is Covid-19?

Covid-19 is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that may cause illness in animals and humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections, ranging from common cold to more severe diseases such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes COVID-19, which first appeared in late 2019.

According to WHO, symptoms typically include fever, runny nose, headache, cough and a general feeling of being unwell; these are the same symptoms of the common flu virus. Some patients may have aches and pains, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people get infected but do not develop symptoms. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

Here are some tips to help you prepare yourself and your home should the virus continue to gain momentum:

Proper Hand Hygiene 

Wet your hands with clean water, then thoroughly apply soap and scrub for at least 20seconds (enough time to sing “happy birthday” twice). Then rinse and dry with a clean towel. Wash your hands as much as you can, from the tip of your fingers up to your elbow.

Remember to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when hand washing is not possible. Apply a dime-sized amount to your palm, then rub your hands together covering all surfaces of your hand and fingers. Rub for up to 20 seconds, enough time for the sanitizer to be absorbed. Hand sanitizers should not be used as a substitute for handwashing.

Do Not Touch Your Face

Every time you touch your face – eyes, nose, mouth – you transfer viruses and bacteria from your hands to your face. A study showed that people touched their faces an average of 3.6 times an hour, probably more than they wash their hands. Make a conscious effort to keep your hands away from your face and other people’s faces.

Cover Your Mouth and Nose When you Cough or Sneeze 

Always carry a tissue around to cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your elbow or upper arm. Avoid using your hands.

Stay Indoors To Protect Others 

If you have a fever, cough or other symptoms and you don’t have to go anywhere, please stay indoors. If your children have any symptoms, don’t send them to school. If you have to go out, wear a face mask. If someone is coughing around you and you have a spare face mask, give it to them. Maintain at least one meter (3 feet) between you and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Learn to use the masks properly.

Protect Your Home 

Make sure to disinfect and clean your home. Keep the surfaces in your home clean, especially places where you eat and spend a lot of time. Teach your children the proper way to wash their hands.

Strengthen Your Immune System 

Your immune system does a remarkable job of defending you against diseases. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. Your first line of defense is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Eat a balanced diet and a lot of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke, drink alcohol in moderation and get adequate sleep. It’s as simple as that. Speak to your doctor if you feel you need immune booster medication or supplements.

Stay Informed 

Health officials are still learning about the virus and how it is transmitted. Make sure to listen to the authorities, follow the guidance as outlined by the World Health Organization, Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and keep up with the latest developments on COVID-19.

If you have symptoms and need to see a physician, put a call through to your health care provider, so they can direct you to the right health facility or take appropriate precautions to treat you and stop the spread to other people.

Chioma Ozoemelam, MD is a Nigerian board-certified Physician. Her day job is at a Pediatric hospital where her patients are also her favorite type of people; children. Chioma volunteers at a cancer foundation where she gets the chance to exercise her other passion, “educating and counseling as a form of medical intervention.

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