Worried about coronavirus? Wash your hands

By Travis Mounts
Times-Sentinel Newspapers

Medical headlines have been hyper-focused on the coronavirus outbreak, which has government officials around the world scrambling to stop the spread of this disease.
But the headlines about travel bans and person-to-person transmission may be creating more fear than is warranted right now.
As of Monday, there were 11 reported cases of coronavirus in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. There were another 82 cases that were suspected but had not been confirmed. Another 167 cases were determined to not be coronavirus.
States with confirmed cases include California, Washington, Arizona, Illinois and Connecticut. A possible case in northeast Kansas was determined not to be coronavirus.
“We are at low risk for coronavirus infection,” said Chris Steward, deputy health director for the Sedgwick County Health Department.
Instead, you should take care to not get the flu, she said. There is still time to get a flu shot. The flu season generally runs from early October to March, although it varies by year.
To put things in perspective, 49 of 50 states were reporting influenza cases, and 45 were reporting high levels of the flu. This flu season, the disease will  hospitalize an estimated 180,000 to 310,000 people, and between 10,000 and 25,000 people will die as a result of the flu.
“Wash your hands frequently, and stay away from people who are ill. But wash your hands, that’s No. 1,” Steward said.
There is no vaccine to prevent the current version of coronavirus, known among medical professionals as 2019-nCov. But the CDC says there are steps you can take that will help prevent the spread of coronavirus, colds and influenza.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This one tip is especially recommended after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
• If soap and water are not available, used an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. The CDC recommends always washing with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Such contact can help introduce viruses into your body.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, stay home.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then throw away the tissue. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your arm.
• Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched frequently. Use a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
On Monday, China officials confirmed more than 17,000 cases of coronavirus, including more than 2,800 new cases in a 24-hour period.
The outbreak is centered in Wuhan Province in central China, but cases have been reported in many parts of the country and neighboring countries, including Japan, South Korea and Thailand.