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COVID-19: Our Past, Our Present, and Our Uncertain Future

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As the world copes with COVID-19 and its impact on everyday life, researchers and healthcare workers are scrambling to care for the thousands of patients who have contracted the potentially severe illness. And while treatment of the virus is certainly important, prevention is key to help minimize its spread.

What Did We Know About Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is the name for a group of viruses that can cause COVID-19, in addition to other infectious diseases. Although little was known about COVID-19 before it was first identified in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, animal coronaviruses have been studied since the 1930s.

In the 1960s, human coronaviruses were first discovered and isolated for research. Some of the most recent coronavirus diseases discovered have been those that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

What Do We Know Now?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. During this time of uncertainty and fear, it’s important you arm yourself with facts about the virus so you can better protect you and your family. Here’s a quick run-down on what we currently know about COVID-19:

• Number of cases: Currently, there are close to 500,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. alone, whereas the global count has reached well over 1.6 million. Because it has been difficult to know how many people have had the disease and recovered, the number of cases may likely be more.
• Severe complications can happen, but mostly in compromised people: Severe complications of COVID-19 include pneumonia, multi-organ failure, and sometimes death. Complications are most common in the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and individuals with underlying health conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure.
• Smoking makes the disease worse: COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, and smoking can irritate the lungs and make the symptoms and outcomes of the disease even worse.

Know How to Protect Yourself

Social distancing has quickly become the norm these past few weeks. Schools and non-essential businesses have closed and many people have started working from home.

This pandemic has taught the world about the power of viruses and how quickly they spread. And while no known treatment or vaccine exists, there are things you can do right now to prevent yourself from coming into contact with the virus.

Now more than ever, people in every corner of the globe are taking action to prevent infection. Here’s some simple actions you can take to prevent exposure:

• Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough: Airborne viruses can travel on small droplets from your respiratory system, which is why many people are wearing masks to prevent catching COVID-19.
• Avoid touching your face: Your face is the first place where viruses enter your body. Your hands carry many germs that you’ve come into contact with outside and even in your own home. If you can avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, you can greatly reduce your odds of getting sick.
• Social distancing: Staying home and distancing yourself from others is important to prevent spreading a virus and catching it. Temporarily keeping your distance – particularly from the elderly and people with conditions that make them more vulnerable to viral-causing infections – can help bring down the number of cases worldwide.
• Making healthier lifestyle choices: Diet, sleep, stress management, and physical activity can all play a role in your immune health. To ensure a healthy immune system, make sure you are eating a balanced diet low in sugar, sleeping at least 7 to 8 hours a day, staying physically active, and managing stress by doing things that you enjoy.

What’s in the Cards?

It’s unclear when life will return to normal. But as we continue to “shelter in place” and distance ourselves from others, the faster we can get back to our normal routines.

Even when our lives become “normal” again, we can begin to make healthier choices, all while keeping the public’s health in mind. Washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and staying home when you don’t feel good will certainly help.

Many of these actions can also be taken each year during the seasonal flu. By doing this, we can work together to prevent the spread of potentially fatal illnesses. In turn, we prevent our lives from being turned upside down again by this and other fast-spreading viruses.

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