3 coronavirus myths busted by an Ohio State expert

There are some similarities between influenza and coronavirus. But there are some really significant differences as well

1. Myth: Coronavirus is just like the flu.

Coronavirus is new. We don’t know a lot about it. We still don’t know how many people will die as a result of this epidemic, and we do know that for flu. We don’t know how many people will be impacted by this epidemic when it’s all played its course, and we also know that for flu.

Flu impacts tens of millions of Americans every year, leads to hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths.

We haven’t seen the coronavirus reach that level yet, but it’s still something we’re obviously really concerned about.

2. Myth: What happens here in the U.S. is going to look just like what happened in China and in South Korea and in Italy.

We have no reason to think that’s going to be the case. What happened in China was really different circumstances. Who knows how long coronavirus was smoldering in those communities before we started recognizing it and testing for it?

Very likely there were many, many thousands of people already sick with coronavirus in Wuhan and in China at large before we ever sent the first test.

Italy: also very different circumstances. Very different health care system there, some different social conventions and a different level of scrutiny at the beginning of this crisis.

We have full faith that our response here in the United States is going to lead to far fewer affected individuals and much less significant serious disease.

3. Myth: Staying home and hoarding food is going to help you in the long run.

The grocery store is probably one of the worst places you can go as there is so much traffic and so many people touching various items on the shelf. There are plenty of people with needs, and keeping 30 rolls of toilet paper in your downstairs bathroom isn’t helping anybody.  

Getting out of doors and spending some time outside helps alleviate stress, helps keep you healthy, helps boost your immune system and does a lot to benefit you in the midst of everything that’s going on right now. It also creates some great social distance and can help you from potentially getting exposed to a virus or having a transmission.

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Do these 6 things if you’re quarantined at home

Self-quarantine is a preventive measure. It’s a way to keep somebody who might have been exposed to an infectious disease from transmitting it to others. In other words, quarantine is something we use for patients who aren’t sick but may become sick. If you’ve been advised by a health care provider to go into quarantine or if you’re opting to do it on your own, there are some things you can do to care for yourself at home.

1. Meals and Household Items

Make sure you have everything you need to go about your daily life during the recommended quarantine period. This includes food, medication, toiletries and other household items. You really want to avoid having to leave your quarantine area to do grocery shopping, refill medications or purchase basic necessities.

2. Keep a Diary

Write down how you feel every day. It’s one of the easiest ways we can identify subtle trends that we wouldn’t be aware of if we weren’t logging them. In the case of COVID-19, look for basic cold and flu symptoms such as runny nose, congestion, cough, shortness of breath, fever and sometimes gastrointestinal issues.

3. Stay Active and Busy 

Quarantine can be a pretty lonely place, so you want to make sure you have ways to keep yourself busy. This could be with a few good books, movies or streaming services. There are so many opportunities to interact with people virtually through social media channels and video messaging services. You should also do things to help you stay healthy. Exercise, eat a healthy diet and stay hydrated. Watch your sleep habits too. Don’t stay up all night and sleep through the day.

4. Practice Social Distancing at Home

We control the primary means for viruses to access our bodies and make us sick, so the best thing you can do is hand hygiene, hand hygiene, hand hygiene. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water or use hand sanitizer when appropriate. You don’t need to wear a mask or be confined to a room. You can co-exist in a shared space. You do want to be cautious that you’re not providing an opportunity for sneezing or coughing on each other. And make sure you’re not sharing food or drinks.

5. Clean High-Touch Surfaces

Think about the bathroom. Think about the sink. Think about door knobs. I’d recommend keeping things like that clean. And don’t forget your devices. We touch our phones constantly and, if you’re spending a lot of time at home, you’re probably touching your TV remote a lot. Wipe them down frequently to help prevent the spread of germs.

6. Call Your Health Care Provider

If you believe you’ve had a significant exposure, you should contact a health care provider. They can provide recommendations to keep you and your loved ones safe. And, if at any time you become uncomfortable with your symptoms, give them a call. If you’re in distress and are experiencing difficulty breathing, chest pain or confusion, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention in an emergency department.

Iahn Gonsenhauser is chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and assistant professor of internal medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.