What Is A Pandemic And How Do We Avoid Infection?
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has not officially been declared a pandemic by the CDC or the WHO as of the writing of this blog. It is mainly affecting people in China, but it has spread to a few other countries, including the United States.
There are multiple levels of infectious disease depending on how far a disease spreads, and how often. Below are the levels of disease from the CDC’s website, from the smallest geographic area to the largest geographic reach.
Levels of Disease
- Endemic: the amount of a particular disease that is usually present in a community is referred to as the baseline or endemic level of the disease
- Sporadic: refers to a disease that occurs infrequently and irregularly
- Hyperendemic: refers to persistent, high levels of disease occurrence
- Epidemic: refers to an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area
- Outbreak: carries the same definition of epidemic, but is often used for a more limited geographic area
- Cluster: refers to an aggregation of cases grouped in place and time that are suspected to be greater than the number expected, even though the expected number may not be known
- Pandemic: refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people
So how do we protect ourselves and others from contracting the coronavirus?
We can protect ourselves and others by following basic guidelines from the CDC that we would normally use to avoid infection:
Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
Maintain social distancing
Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. Droplets spread viruses. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
Seek medical care early if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority. National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
For more information
Check out these resources from the CDC and WHO for updates on the situation, as well as additional ways to protect yourself from COVID-19.
- CDC (Centers for Disease Control) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
- WHO (World Health Organization) https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019