How to Protect Yourself and Others From Viruses

Millions of people around the world get sick with viral infections every year. Viruses are microscopic organisms, generally smaller than bacteria, that cause infectious diseases such as the common cold, flu, and many more.

Most viruses are harmless and scientists have developed vaccines to stop them from spreading or even eliminate them. However, new strains of viruses, such as the coronavirus, can be especially contagious and spread rapidly, causing epidemic or pandemic outbreaks.

Viruses are often spread through person-to-person contact. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, respiratory droplets are produced and inhaled by people nearby. Some viruses may even be spread by people who are not showing any symptoms at all.

The best way to protect yourself and others from community-spread viruses is to get the appropriate vaccine (if it's available), practice good hygiene, wash hands properly as often as possible, and avoid close personal contact with people you don't live with, especially during outbreaks.

Wash Hands Properly

Frequent handwashing is still the best prevention against viral infections. There is a proper way to wash your hands. The World Health Organization recommends using soap and clean water and scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds or about as long as singing "Happy Birthday" twice. Here are the steps to washing your hands thoroughly:

  1. Wet your hands with clean running water then apply enough soap to cover all areas
  2. Rub hands palm to palm to work the soap into a lather
  3. Rub the back of your right hand with your fingers interlaced, repeat in your left hand
  4. Rub your palms with your fingers interlaced
  5. Rub backs of fingers on opposing palms with fingers interlocked
  6. Rub the right thumb by clasping with opposite hand using rotational movement
  7. Rub the tips of your fingers on the opposite palm
  8. Rub each wrist with the opposite hand
  9. Rinse hands with water
  10. Dry thoroughly using a single-use towel
  11. Turn off tap using the towel or an elbow

    Source: WHO

Practice Social Distancing

Social distancing means avoiding close physical contact with people who do not live with you. It helps slow down the transmission of infectious diseases and lessens the impact on society, especially the health care system.

Scientists recommend keeping a distance of at least six feet or two meters away from other people. Six feet or two meters is the average distance that respiratory droplets from a sneeze or cough travel before they settle and aren't likely to be inhaled.
Stay at Home

During outbreaks, it is also advisable to limit all but essential travel. The purpose of this is to slow down the spread of infection and lessen the impact on society, specifically the medical care system. Telecommuting or working from home is encouraged to avoid close physical contact in public transportation and in the workplace. Closing schools and switching to online classes are also recommended.

You can keep coronavirus from infecting thousands just by staying at home. However, if you have symptoms such as coughing, fever, shortness of breath, and sore throat, you should call your doctor and seek medical care.


Practice Proper Hygiene

The best countermeasure against community-spread diseases is to practice proper hygiene. Personal hygiene practices help you and the people around you from spreading germs. Minimize your risk of infection by following these basic hygiene habits:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Wear a facemask if you are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

    Source: CDC

Practice Healthy Lifestyle Habits

A strong and healthy immune system is the best defense against disease-causing microorganisms. It fights off any infection and helps the body create immunity to any germ that it has encountered so it can defeat it in the future. Practicing healthy lifestyle habits is crucial to strengthening our immune system. Healthy living also maintains general wellness, improves longevity, boosts energy levels, and controls weight.

Follow these tips to help your body ward off diseases especially during pandemics.

Exercise regularly -  Studies show that regular exercise can help reduce health risks and increase your chances of living longer. In fact, people who are physically active for about 150 minutes a week have a 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who are physically inactive.

Get enough sleep - A good night's sleep of about 7 to 9 hours for adults helps the mind and body recharge and repair itself. But of lack of sleep can affect the immune system. Studies have shown that people who don't get enough quality sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus.

Quit smoking and drinking - Smoking weakens the lungs and greatly increases the risk of getting sick from a virus that attacks the respiratory system. Drinking too much alcohol also negatively affects the immune system, making you more likely to get an infection. Doctors recommend quitting smoking and drinking to improve general health and reduce the risk of getting sick.

Stay hydrated - Drinking enough water every day keeps the organs functioning properly, regulates body temperature, helps the body deliver nutrients to the cells, and helps prevent infections.

Eat a balanced diet - Good nutrition, combined with regular physical activity, is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. A healthy and balanced diet reduces the risk of chronic and infectious diseases and promotes overall health. Certain food helps the body protect itself from viral infections. Include the following food in your diet to help boost your immune system.

  • Dark green leafy vegetables like salad greens, kale, and spinach are rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K. Broccoli, bok choy, and mustard are rich in many B-vitamins.
  • Foods rich in vitamin C, such as fruits and vegetables, contribute to a strong immune system by strengthening various cellular functions.
  • Yogurt contains live beneficial bacteria that help the body fight off infections. It is also a good source of protein.
  • Ginger has compounds that help enhance immunity and soothes many symptoms caused by viruses such as the sore throat.
  • Garlic helps improve heart and gastrointestinal health and is also known to boost the immune system

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