The recent outbreak of a form of Coronavirus – now known as COVID-19 is spreading sustainably all over the world, raising new concerns and fears among people worldwide. Adults 65 and over are most susceptible. The disease is known to cause respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia, cough, fever and shortness of breath.
The virus that was first reported in the Wuhan region of China in 2019, is now being considered one of deadliest outbreak, with more than 81,000 cases detected and 2765 deaths reported. The virus has spread to more than 42 countries and territories. The WHO continues to work closely with global experts from the Medicine and Science and collaborating with governments to not only to expedite the expansion of scientific knowledge about this virus, but also to work closely with countries in their efforts to forestall the spread of this disease and protect people’s health.
There are no known or approved vaccines or antivirals for COVID-19. Chinese health authorities have posted its full genome in international databases and some of the world’s topmost drug makers have embarked upon developing an antiviral vaccine. So, until a solution is available, the only option is to take aggressive preventive measures to protect from the virus.
According to Vineet Menacherry, an immunologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch, the main reasons people aged 65 and above are at increased susceptibility are
a) the fact they could be already suffering from other underlying conditions, such are COPD and
b) the way the immune system response changes or diminishes as people age.
So, how can elders protect themselves from the Coronavirus outbreak?
It starts with a well-defined and sustained hygiene plan and some simple lifestyle changes
Here are top 5 things elderly can do to protect themselves from Coronavirus
1. Wash Hands Often
As simple as this may sound, washing hands is the most effective way to prevent the spread of any virus. According to Dr. Trish Perl, an infectious disease specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, in the case of SARS – another deadly coronavirus disease, it was observed that hand washing reduced the risk of transmission by 30-50 percent.
Elders must wash their hands frequently and thoroughly in order to prevent exposure. The right way to wash hands is to scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or by using a 60%–95% alcohol sanitizer. It is important to wash frequently – after bathroom visits, before eating, after touching pets, or after coming in close contact with people who may be ill.
2. Practice Respiratory and Personal Hygiene Habits
Elders must adopt the basic method for respiratory hygiene – covering their mouths and noses with a mask, preferably at all times. Masks will protect elders and the people around them from getting in contact with airborne viruses and bacteria.
When coughing or sneezing, use a tissue. Cough or sneeze into a bent elbow or into the clothing on the upper arm to stop the droplets from cough or sneeze to spray and spread through air. Dispose tissues into closed trash bins and wash clothes thoroughly in the warmest temperature that garments can handle.
Avoid touching hands to nose, mouth and eyes, since contaminants can easily get deposited on the hands from touching different surfaces
Elders should also request other family members and caregivers to practice respiratory and personal hygiene, and most importantly to use masks and gloves as they perform any personal care activities that will bring them in close bodily contact.
3. Avoid Travel
Since its discovery in Dec 2019, in less than 2 months COVID-19 has spread to more than 42 countries. The Diamond Princess cruise ship docked and quarantined outside Yokohama, Japan has so far reported close to 691 cases of infected people, with 4 cases of death and 18 cases in critical condition.
It is impossible to limit exposure to people and elements when elders travel, especially in closed spaces like airplanes, airports, buses, trains and cruise ships. It is best to avoid travel if possible. If travel is a must, and elders are in a healthy condition to travel, then it is recommended they travel either by themselves or with a non affected family member in personal automobiles . If renting vehicles, request for a disinfected or decontaminated vehicle. Use anti-bacterial wipes to clean the contact surfaces and seats before using a rental car.
Avoid crowded spaces like malls or stadiums. And as a rule of thumb, elders must protect themselves with a mask and gloves – so they can limit personal contact with people. It is good to maintain social distance of at least 3 feet from people, especially, if they show signs of any illness.
Technology can be a great alternative. Messaging and Video chatting and Social Media can help stay connected with friends and families.
4. Stay Current With Routine Medications
Double down and adhere to routine medication plans and consume prescribed medications regularly. It is important to not aggravate any of underlying pre-existing medical conditions – especially chronic conditions. Maintaining overall general health is key to reducing susceptibility to any contagion. It is also a good idea to be proactive and get prescriptions filled and stocked – so disruptions in medication schedule can be avoided.
5. Stay Hydrated and Maintain a Healthy And Nutritionally Complete Diet
Continue to eat and follow a healthy and nutritionally complete diet consistent with existing medical and general health conditions. Elders must choose to nourish their body to keep the immune system charged and prepared. Avoid eating raw meat of any kind and ensure that all meat consumed is thoroughly cooked. Dr. Mehmet Oz, the renowned television personality, cardiothoracic surgeon and Columbia University Profession recommends using the following guideline for minimum cooking temperatures to make sure food is safe from bacteria and harmful virus ~
- Beef, Lamb and Veal (145 deg F)
- Ground Meats (165 deg F)
- Fresh Pork and Ham (160 deg F)
- Poultry (165 deg)
- Eggs (till yolk is firm)
- Leftovers and Casseroles (65 deg F)
It is best to test meat temperature with a meat thermometer – to ensure the meat is cooked at the recommended temperatures. It is also not a bad idea to try and switch to plant based alternatives for meat. If switching to plant-based meats, make sure you still follow the manufacturer’s recommended process of cooking plant-based alternatives.
And if you feel like you are experiencing the systems…
It is quite possible that even after following the above steps habitually, you may see signs of illness and experience some flu like symptoms, including cough, fever and even pneumonia. At the first sign of these systems, pay a visit to your doctor and get checked for the type of infection. Your doctor should be able to diagnose your condition and recommend the correct remedial plan.
Doctors and experts worldwide are working closely to come up with resolution for Covid-19. New information from research and testing is being published frequently. WHO and CDC continue to release bulletins on new discoveries and developments and are disseminating information regarding precautionary measures to help keep the public informed and safe.
Elders, caregivers and family members should continue to follow web or official media channels, for latest information and developments.