“There's no reason to panic about this disease, but you have to be deeply concerned. I think the single biggest challenge we face is a misunderstanding and often a soft-pedalling of this at the level of the population. People are clever. People are concerned about their health. People will do the right things if they have the right information.” Dr. Bruce Aylward, St. John's-raised, Memorial University-educated doctor, appointed leader of the World Health Organization's efforts to contain the virus in China in January.
How to recognize symptoms and protect yourself
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory infections like bronchitis, pneumonia or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Complications from the 2019 novel coronavirus can include serious conditions, like pneumonia or kidney failure, and in some cases, death. Coronaviruses are spread mainly from person to person through close contact, for example, in a household, workplace or health care centre.
Risk of severe disease may be higher for those with a weakened immune system, the elderly and people with chronic disease, e.g. diabetes, cancer, heart, kidney or chronic lung disease.
Symptoms and treatment
Symptoms range from mild, like the flu and other common respiratory infections, to severe and can include fever, coughs and shortness of breath.
There are no specific treatments for coronaviruses, and there is no vaccine that protects against the COVID-19 virus. Most people with common human coronavirus illnesses will recover on their own. You should:
- drink plenty of fluids
- get rest and sleep as much as possible
- try a humidifier or a hot shower to help with a sore throat or cough
If you need immediate medical attention you should call 911 and mention symptoms and any recent travel history.
How to protect yourself
There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses. Take these everyday steps to reduce exposure to the virus and protect your health:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Sneeze and cough into your sleeve.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes the following recommendations for using a facemask:
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
- The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
Health officials don't recommend masks for healthy people in the general population, in part because wearing them can backfire, increasing how often someone touches their face to adjust the mask.
People should also be aware of “medicine doctors” declaring “cures” and “remedies” that claim to ‘treat or prevent’ coronavirus. Be informed!
PREPAREDNESS PLAN: How to get your Business ReadyHere’s a quick checklist for employers preparing for employee exposure and illness from the coronavirus. It’s essential to review your policies and resources and make sure you are prepared if people need to stay home, the company has to close for some time, or one of your employees or their families becomes ill.
- Stay informed and offer resources. Check for updated information from credible sources.
- Ontario’s Dedicated Website
- CDC - Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- WHO – World Health Organization
- WHO - Getting your Workplace Ready for COVID-19
- PHAC – Public Health Agency of Canada
2. Your employees’ health and safety is the most important thing. All policies should promote health and safety and get employees access to information and resources.
3. Any laws that may apply are the bare minimum required. Take a larger view of the interests of the business and your employees and don’t just apply minimums.
4. Check leave policies, paid sick leave laws, short and long term disability coverage, workers’ compensation coverage, and resources such as disability benefits. Understand how each applies to quarantine, forced leave, and long illness.
5. Know who gets paid when the office is closed, or people should not be working. Often exempt employees get paid but non-exempt employees don’t. Lower wage and hourly employees often can’t survive without working and will feel the need to come to work even if they are sick. Play it safe. Consider paying everyone for forced leave and let them know in advance so sick people stay home.
6. Be aware of the potential for discrimination based on race and national origin. The Ontario Human Rights Council released the following statement:
“Discriminatory action against any persons or communities because of an association with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), perceived or otherwise, is prohibited by the Ontario Human Rights Code. The coronavirus is not isolated to people of any particular ethnic origin, place of origin or race.”
Assumptions that people of a certain ethnic heritage are more infectious or dangerous is a race-based assumption. Employers can require workers to take time off with pay based on their recent travel history to areas with a travel advisory related to the coronavirus.
7. Start planning now for people who need leave or need to work remotely because schools close, the office closes or someone in their family is ill and they cannot leave because they might infect others. Plan now so you can do what you can to help people work where they need to work.
8. Respect privacy and confidentiality of medical information. People are scared, rumours will fly. Inform people of risks, but never reveal private information, especially medical information.
9. And everybody, please wash your hands.