These office workers didn’t get the memo that sick people should work from home.
Every person can do their part to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2. But, in times of uncertainty, it’s easy to make mistakes.
The biggest problem is if you spread the virus to other people, especially those with compromised immune systems. “If you are infected and come into contact with other people, you put those people at risk,” said Dr. Stanley Deresinski, a clinical professor of infectious diseases at Stanford Medicine. “That’s basically what it revolves around.”
Here are five blunders that could exacerbate the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.
Coronavirus news and science
—Live updates on the coronavirus
—What are the symptoms?
—How deadly is the new coronavirus?
—How does it compare with seasonal flu?
—How does the coronavirus spread?
—Can people spread the coronavirus after they recover?
1. Not quarantining if you’re sick
If you have COVID-19 or suspect that you do, but have mild symptoms, including mild fever, cough or sore throat, you should self-quarantine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends. Those with more serious symptoms, such as high fever, weakness, lethargy or shortness of breath, should seek medical care, Live Science previously reported.
“Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others,” the CDC says. “That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.”
It’s important to take these quarantines seriously, Eric McNulty, associate director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard University, told Live Science in a Feb. 28 interview. “Many of us work from home from time to time, and it doesn’t mean you’re locked in the house,” McNulty said. “In this case, it really does mean that. You’re agreeing to stay home.”
If you live with other people or even pets, remember to quarantine yourself from these individuals, too. There are no reports of pets becoming ill with COVID-19, but it’s best for sick people to steer clear of animals until more is known about the virus, the CDC says. Sorry, but that includes “petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked and sharing food,” with your pet, the CDC says. “If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a face mask.”
2. Believing conspiracy theories but not health professionals
Social media and even some news sites are swarming with conspiracy theories and misinformation, and that’s despite the efforts that some companies, including YouTube, Facebook and Amazon, have taken to pour water on the flames, according to The Washington Post.
If people believe these theories — for instance, that the virus is a hoax or not a serious health threat — “they may be ill and not quarantine themselves,” Deresinski told Live Science.
In addition, be skeptical of theories that sprout close to home. For example, people shouldn’t listen to “Uncle Harry’s idea of what you ought to do as opposed to what the CDC says you should do,” McNulty said.
3. Seeking alternative treatments
If people are sick, but pursue so-called alternative treatments or natural therapies rather than quarantining themselves or seeking scientifically backed medical care, they could “pose an additional risk,” to the public, Deresinski said.
Right now, there is no vaccine for COVID-19, according to the CDC. So, beware of claims of cures, including eating garlic, downing elderberry syrup, guzzling vitamin C and drinking industrial bleach — all ideas that have been debunked, according to FactCheck.org, a project at the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania
4. Not practicing good hygiene
This may sound obvious, but practicing good hygiene can be a chore, so we’ll repeat it here. CDC recommendations include: