March 11, the World Health Organization officially named situation with the spread of the COVID ‑ 19 pandemic. This is not the first such announcement in history. For example, in 2009, swine flu, the viral strain H1N1, received the same status.
Then, over a decade ago, it ended pretty quickly and relatively well. Therefore, you should not be too nervous this time. But one must be prepared for a possible development of events.
To date, coronavirus is not officially called 2019-nCoV, but SARS-CoV-2. The disease that he causes is named COVID ‑ 2019 (Coronavirus Disease 2019).
What is a pandemic?
From ancient Greek, this word is translated simply – “all the people.” Hence the meaning: pandemic, as defined by WHO , – the rapid spread of a new dangerous infection on a global (“popular”) scale.
For centuries, a variety of pathogens have killed millions of people. For example, in the 20th century, humanity suffered three global outbreaks of influenza. The worst of them – the Spaniard – claimed the lives of 50 to 100 million people, or 3 to 5% of the total population of the planet .
But why do pandemics happen in the modern world?
Today, diseases are spreading faster than ever. This is due to the growth of cities, the popularity of long-distance travel, the lack of sanitation, and the control of carriers of disease in some countries. The most famous dangerous viruses today are the causative agents of SARS (SARS ‑ CoV virus), Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS ‑ CoV), Ebola, and Zika virus. And, of course, SARS ‑ CoV ‑ 2 coronavirus is a close relative of SARS.
Until recently, doctors believed that a new pandemic would cause the flu virus. . It easily mutates, is transmitted by airborne droplets and is widely distributed until the first symptoms appear in patients.
But there was SARS ‑ CoV2. And it is no less dangerous than the most deadly strains of the flu. So, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded many medical research and bioengineering programs for many years, has already suggested SARS ‑ CoV-2 is the same “one-century pathogen we were afraid of.”
Firstly, in addition to the elderly with poor health, it can also kill healthy adults. Secondly, COVID ‑ 19 is extremely efficiently transmitted. On average, one infected person infects two or three people – this spread exponentially.
Why is a pandemic dangerous?
First of all, a large number of infected. As a result, the collapse of the health system.
According to current data , about 20% of those who get COVID ‑ 19 require hospitalization. And 6% of them will not survive if they do not end up in intensive care units (resuscitation) equipped with artificial lung ventilation (IVL) and extraporal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) .
The problem is that the health systems of most countries are not designed for such a load.
If, for example, 100 thousand people get sick at the same time, 20 thousand of them will need hospitalization. And 5 thousand – resuscitation. Meanwhile, the number of beds in hospitals is limited.
For example, China provides 4.3 hospital beds for every thousand inhabitants. In the USA – 2.8. In Italy, 3.2. In Japan, 13.1. In Russia – 8.1.
This means that, for example, the average million-plus city in the USA has only 2,800 beds in a hospital. If 100 thousand people fall ill with coronavirus in the same conditional city, there will simply not be enough places in hospitals. Even for those who need resuscitation.
Doctors will have to choose who to save and who to refuse treatment (and generally the opportunity to survive).
But problems will arise not only for those who get COVID ‑ 19. Appendicitis, heart attack, stroke, anaphylactic shock, serious injuries sustained in road accidents and not only – all patients with such deadly dangerous conditions, not to mention the easier ones, will have to “queue” for medical help. And far from the fact that they will render it. After all, there are also a limited number of doctors, and in a pandemic they will have to work literally for wear and tear.
Thus, mortality from coronavirus (and only in the US, doctors predict up to 480 thousand victims) will be supplemented by a sharp increase in mortality from other causes. Inevitable panic and chaos will only exacerbate this situation.
What am I supposed to do?
First of all, do not ignore the calls of doctors and authorities. Do not try to reassure yourself with the illusions that this is a world conspiracy and, in general, “more people die from the flu – and nothing.” Unfortunately, the current pandemic is much more serious than the flu.
A simple example: in the same Italy, up to 1,800 people die every day from all causes, including old age, illness, accidents, accidents, etc. . 10% of them are victims of coronavirus (according to for the second week of March). No flu has ever dreamed of such numbers .
Most likely, now there are much more infected than according to official data. The fact is that COVID ‑ 19 has a long incubation period and symptoms, often similar to SARS. Therefore, people tolerate it without going to doctors and not doing tests.
The experience of previous large-scale outbreaks of various diseases has not passed for our civilization in vain: experts have drawn conclusions. And the main one sounds like this : each of us must do everything to avoid becoming infected with the virus and not spread it further.
This will not only save your health and that of your family personally. But it will also help reduce the burden on the healthcare sector. This means that doctors will have more resources left to help those who really need it.
That is why many countries take severe quarantine measures: they require citizens who return from “dangerous” countries not to leave their homes for two weeks, close schools, universities, entertainment centers, ask businesses to transfer employees to remote work, cancel mass events, restrict freedom meetings and even moving around city streets …
In China, just such a strategy allowed the epidemic to be stopped: only after almost two weeks of strict quarantine did the curve of new cases of COVID ‑ 19 and deaths decline .
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And if in my country there is no quarantine yet?
Understand that they can enter it. But because now it’s worth considering the possibility of self-isolation.
COVID ‑ 19 is distributed by airborne droplets, so it is important to avoid crowded places: metro, airports, train stations, schools, supermarkets (try to switch from the habit of making small purchases every day to the habit of buying in bulk, once a week), hospitals.
Remember: the less often you leave your home and meet other people during a pandemic, the more likely you are to survive.
If a visit is still necessary, choose the most deserted time and strictly follow the basic rules of hygiene:
- wash your hands more often – with soap and warm water, for at least 15–20 seconds;
- if you sneeze, do it not in a fist, but in the bend of the elbow;
- wean yourself from the habit of touching your hands with your eyes, nose, or mouth;
- temporarily abandon the tradition of greeting people by the hand – even those in whom you are sure;
- get enough sleep, drink enough fluids, eat healthy foods, try to minimize stress, be physically active. These healthy habits will support your immunity.
What to do if authorities have quarantined?
This means that the situation is becoming really serious. It should be borne in mind that quarantine quarantine is different.
As a rule, at the initial stages of power, schools, kindergartens, universities, entertainment centers are closed, and additionally more urgently than usual, they ask citizens to limit contacts. This is inconvenient, but not too critical: offices, shops, ATMs work as usual, public transport travels, utilities perform their duties.
If this is enough to stop the spread of infection, after a few weeks of minor inconvenience, quarantine will be canceled and life will return to its usual rhythm.
But already at this stage you need to understand: the situation with the virus may not improve, but worsen. And then the quarantine measures will become tougher – with the possible closure of many shops, offices, the cancellation of public transport, malfunctions in utilities and other services, as well as chaos and unrest caused by panic. Get ready for this eventual development.
Leave home less often
If your profession involves such an option, try to start working remotely. If this is not possible, try to take a vacation for at least 2-3 weeks.
Build food at home
With the expectation that you may have to live on it for some time without leaving the door. United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends make stock for two weeks. These recommendations were for a flu pandemic, but CDC experts say their relevant now.
And given that the incubation period and the course of COVID ‑ 19 is longer than that of the flu, it is better to play it safe. Raking matches — salt — buckwheat from store shelves is not worth it, but buy more products than usual every time you go to the supermarket. Your task is to make stocks for a period of 4 to 6 weeks. Pay attention to the shelf life of products and do not keep anything perishable.
Take the list with you
This is especially true for people with chronic diseases. Make sure your home medicine cabinet contains:
- your permanent preparations for 1–2 months;
- painkillers – ibuprofen, paracetamol, aspirin;
- cough and cold medications;
- remedies you take for indigestion.
Also, rehydron and isotonic drinks, which are necessary for dehydration (it is likely during a high temperature), as well as vitamins (consult a physician about them – preferably by phone) will also be useful.
Get ready for the abrupt changes in your usual life.
Build up water supplies. Now this measure may seem redundant. But imagine a situation very likely during the period of strict quarantine. There is an accident on the water main, there is no one to repair it, because the services work intermittently. The company that delivered the drinking water to you temporarily does not work. In supermarkets, water is bought up. Presented?
Expect about 4 liters of water per person per day. This is the optimal amount to drink, wash and cook.
Stephen Redd ) from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends preparing warm blankets and clothing for the season – in case of possible outages of heating and electricity. And also purchase a battery radio. And, of course, enough batteries and external batteries to charge mobile devices.
Another important tip is to keep cash at home: ATMs can also work intermittently. Be prepared for a possible lack of fuel for the car and stock up on gas in advance.
But if I can’t stay at home during quarantine?
A good idea is to wear a mask to protect against infection. Both medical disposable and more serious means will do. For example, respiratory protective mask No. 95 blocks over 95% of the fine particles that are present in the air. To wear a respirator, strictly follow the instructions that come with the kit. In this case, the guys will have a harder time: the mask may not fit snugly due to stubble or beard. Store your blades and shaving cream in advance.
But the suit of biological and chemical protection is too much. To use it correctly, strict adherence to the instructions is required. It is unlikely that you will have enough time and patience for this.
And if I get sick?
Most importantly, do not behave like a super-distributor (this is the name of those who infect more people than the average for the disease). During the last outbreak of Ebola, only 3% of patients caused infection 61% of all people infected.
Responsibility for the spread of the pathogen lies with a small number of people. Therefore, at the first symptoms of the disease, contact your therapist at the place of residence, that is, in the clinic. There is a nuance: if you or those with whom you spoke have returned in the last two weeks from countries where coronavirus spreads (China, Italy, Spain, France, Germany …), it is worth calling an ambulance.
Even if after the examination you did not find a coronavirus and were sent home to treat ARVI, try to avoid public places.
Better rest at home so as not to infect others. Even if it’s a common cold.
Secure the loved ones who live with you. Occupy a separate room for the duration of the illness, if possible, and wear a medical mask. Do not forget that the mask collects the virus, so it should be changed every 2-3 hours. The same applies to disposable respirators No. 95.
How long will it all last?
It is hard to understand how long the pandemic will last. Chinese experts suggest that if the affected countries mobilize and enforce strict quarantine, the global outbreak of COVID ‑ 19 could end by June.
But even if this optimistic scenario is realized, the disease can return with a series of relapses. At best, scientists will develop a vaccine or drug to treat the virus. But it will take months and even years.
It is possible that the disease will remain at large, like HIV and many other diseases that have become familiar to us.
Will these tips definitely help me?
Nobody knows what works in your situation. But the precautions will not hurt. Take the threats posed by a pandemic seriously. And take care of yourself and loved ones.
Test, just a test
Inglesby: Families should have a few days’ supply of water and food in their basements so that they can take care of themselves for a little while. Have a plan on how you’re going to communicate. The problem with pandemics is the time course is always different. The pandemic that happened in 1918 took a year and a half to move around the world. Inglesby: If we all end up in our homes with guns, then nothing will work. We won’t be able to get anything to anyone. You basically would have to imagine scenes of complete lawlessness and a complete breakdown of social order.