Late this afternoon, Minnesota reported its first case of COVID-19:
The patient is an older Ramsey County [St. Paul, Minnesota] resident who had been on a cruise ship with a known COVID-19 case. The unidentified person sought health care yesterday after developing symptoms on Feb. 25, according to the Health Department, and is currently recovering at home in isolation. All of the patient’s identified contacts will be asked to quarantine themselves for two weeks and they will be monitored by public health officials for symptoms.
The state’s testing laboratory confirmed the presumptive case today and a sample will be sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for final testing.
And I tweeted:
With over 100,000 cases on six continents, and many countries (including most of the U.S. West coast and New York City) reporting person-to-person spread within communities, EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS A PANDEMIC. We don’t need the World Health Organization to tell us.
The world is facing a situation at least as serious as the 1918/1919 Spanish flu pandemic—and many countries are quite simply unprepared. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic will severely disrupt everyday life and society in a way that we have not seen in over a century. What is happening in mainland China, and throughout Iran, and in northern Italy, and in South Korea is no longer somebody else’s problem, on the other side of the world.
It is our problem.
It is YOUR problem.
The question is: how are you going to prepare yourself for this?
I am going to repeat this information for those of you who have not been paying attention, who still think this will all blow over (it won’t):
How to Prepare for a Potential Pandemic
Here, once again, is a reminder of what you should be doing to prepare: mentally, emotionally, and physically/logistically.
You will probably need to prepare to stay isolated in your homes for a period of several weeks, avoiding contact with as many other people as possible, as a wave of illness caused by the Wuhan coronavirus sweeps through your community, forcing schools, businesses, and public transportation and public gathering places like movie theatres and shopping malls to close (as we already seen in Wuhan and many other cities in China, as well as places such as South Korea, Iran, and northern Italy). The time to prepare for the imposition of quarantines and social distancing policies by local governments is NOW.
If you need lists of how to prepare and what to buy in order to get your household ready for a potential pandemic, here are seven suggestions to help you get started:
- Personal Health Preparedness information from the U.S. CDC
- Pandemic information from Ready.gov (U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Being prepared (Government of Canada)
- One-page layperson’s guide to the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) by ThePrepared.com website
- So you think you’re about to be in a pandemic? by Dr. Ian M. Mackay of the Virology Down Under blog
- Don’t Panic: The comprehensive Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus: the third page of this 3-page guide provides guidance in how to prepare and what to buy (New!)
- Basic Preps List for One – 30 Days: a discussion thread with links to many useful shopping lists, from the FluTrackers.com forum
You will need to have on hand:
- AT LEAST two weeks of non-perishable food and other supplies (toilet paper, first aid supplies, soap and hand sanitizer, garbage bags, etc.). There are already reports of panic buying in many places around the world, including North America. You do not want to leave it to the last minute! If you cannot find any hand sanitizer, you can make your own (see the recipe below).
- Refills of all your presecription medications, plus a stock of over-the-counter medicines (talk to your doctor and pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of your prescription medication).
- Power sources (flashlights, extra batteries, car chargers and adapters for your mobile devices, etc.). The power probably won’t go out, but it’s better to be prepared than sorry.
Other things that you should do:
- Sign up for any local alerts from your city, state/province, or federal government (or know where to find the information on the Internet). Find out what plans your employer is making (and if they’re not making them now, they should be).
- If you haven’t yet, get your seasonal flu shot. It can’t hurt, and it will help to figure out whether or not you do have SARS-CoV-2 if/when you do become sick. Many areas now give out the flu shot for free.
- Train yourself NOT to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth! The SARS-CoV-2 virus can remain viable on hard surfaces anywhere from 2 hours to 9 days (scientific journal article source), and you can transfer the virus from your infected hands to your mouth, nose, and eyes by touching or rubbing them.
- Watch the following videos from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on how wash your hands properly! Yes, I know I have posted it numerous times before. You may think you already know how to wash your hands properly, but you still might learn something you didn’t know before. Proper hand hygiene will also help you avoid catching regular seasonal colds and influenza, so there’s a net benefit to society.
How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer
There have been reports of panic shopping in various countries around the world, including in North American. In particular, hand sanitizer is in short supply, with many stores being sold out of stock. Fortunately, if you cannot find sanitizer to buy, you can make your own. Here’s the recipe:
2/3-cup rubbing alcohol (99% isopropyl alcohol)
1/3-cup aloe vera gel (GEL, not liquid)
Directions: Add the alcohol to the aloe vera gel and stir. Using a funnel, pour the mixture into a pump bottle; you can use cleaned soap bottles for instance, or you can find inexpensive pump bottles at dollar stores. If you have empty store-bought hand sanitizer bottles, you can use those.
If you wish, you can add 8-10 drops of essentials oils. Lemongrass, eucalyptus, peppermint and orange oils, which have been shown to have some antibacterial properties (source), would be a good choice.
Good Sources of Information on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19
Here is my updated list of good, credible, authoritative resources to learn more about the Wuhan coronoavirus (formerly called 2019-nCoV and now officially called SARS-CoV-2; the disease the virus causes is now called COVID-19):
- the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO)
- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Health Canada, including an FAQ and a fact sheet
- Public Health Canada
- Information for the Public from the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England (U.K.)
- the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
- Public Health Ontario (Canada)
- Coronavirus Information for the Public (British Columbia Centre for Disease Control; see also this series of tweets)
- University of Chicago Medicine
- Don’t Panic: The comprehensive Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus (New!)
- Coronavirus FAQ’s by Dr. Megan Murray (Harvard Infectious Disease specialist)
- 2019-2020 Wuhan coronavirus outbreak (Wikipedia)
- Dr. Roger Seheult is posting short videos to his YouTube channel, explaining the medical concepts behind the Wuhan coronavirus in an easy-to-understand way
- Another instructive YouTuber to watch is Dr. John Campbell, a British nurse educator who very clearly explains what you need to know
- If you prefer to get your information via audio, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) has started a weekly half-hour podcast on SoundCloud, called COVID-19: What’s Happening Now.
- A brand-new, excellent podcast to follow is EPIDEMIC, with co-hosts Dr. Celine Gounder and Ronald Klain (the former United States Ebola response coordinator under President Barack Obama)
- If you want a credible list of people to follow on Twitter, epidemiologist Dr. Ellie Murray has compiled a curated list of coronavirus experts that you can subscribe to.
- Watch the following video from the World Health Organization:
If you want a quick, up-to-date overview of the current situation, here are some good places to check:
- Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases (by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University); sometimes this website goes down, so some other good statistics dashboards can be found here and here.
- Tracking coronavirus: Map, Data and Timeline by BNO News
- the Wikipedia article on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak is constantly updated by an army of volunteer editors, and provides a good overall summary of the situation
Stay informed, get prepared, and stay healthy!