Most people don't have a background in microbiology or infectious diseases. So, it's understandable why many are either in a state of denial or a state of panic regarding the new (novel) coronavirus outbreak that started in China and now has spread to numerous countries, including the U.S.
This virus tends to lodge in the lungs. It typically presents with fever, coughing and fatigue. Most people may feel like they would when they get a bad flu. But if someone is immunocompromised, is older and not well because of another condition (such as respiratory or cardiac problems), the symptoms may worsen to shortness of breath and require hospitalization.
Here's what you need to know to protect yourself:
Wash your hands thoroughly and often whenever you touch a surface of any sort or if you touch another person, as in shaking hands (which you should avoid).
When washing your hands with soap and water, do so for at least 20 seconds.
When soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Do not use a non-alcohol-based sanitizer.
Don't touch your hands to your face, including your eyes, nose and mouth.
In your home or office, use a disinfectant wipe or spray to clean surfaces.
Though there's no vaccine for coronavirus as yet and probably won't be for at least a year or so, you should make sure that you've gotten a flu vaccine as well as the vaccinations for bacterial pneumonia (pneumococcal pneumonia). Though neither of these vaccines will have anything to do with preventing the new coronavirus infection, getting these vaccinations makes it less likely that you are not otherwise medically compromised and that you'll have the need to visit a hospital or doctor's office where you'd be in close proximity to other sick people.
If you become sick, stay at home so that you don't spread any infection to others.
When you sneeze or cough, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, for example, to prevent droplets with infectious organisms from spreading to others or to surfaces. Throw these tissues in the garbage rather than letting them touch a surface. Otherwise sneeze or cough in the crook of your elbow.
If you know people who are sick -- they have a fever or are coughing and/or sneezing -- don't get closer than six feet or so from them.
There is no need to buy any sort of face mask. The N-95 is what's used by health professionals who are treating sick people. And the Centers for Disease Control does not recommend these masks for the public. And the cotton-type surgical mask won't do much of anything in terms of protecting you should someone who coughs or sneezes near you. That's because it doesn't fit tightly to your face nor does it have small enough pores to prevent droplets from entering.