SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Coronavirus cases appear to be inching closer to the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry after two people in Florida tested as positive for the contagious illness over the weekend.
Local health experts say, however, that these areas currently face a low risk of seeing cases of infectious illness.
While there currently is no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, medical professionals tell WSAV.com NOW that there are still simple precautions people can take to protect themselves and others.
These are largely common-sense steps often taken when preventing the spread of the cold or flu viruses, like staying home from school or work if you’re sick and visit a doctor, or staying at least 6 feet away from a person who is coughing or sneezing.
1) Wash hands thoroughly
Although it seems to go without saying, washing hands the right way is one of the simplest ways to prevent the spread of viruses.
Coastal Health District Director Dr. Lawton Davis says people should cleanse them for at least 20 seconds in either warm or cool water, and for long enough to be able to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
“It’s the mechanical action of the soap, water and scrubbing,” Davis said.
“Get your hands wet, apply soap, rub between your fingers, rub your palms, get your fingernails and your palms, get your back of your hands and then rinse thoroughly,” he instructed.
2) Use hand sanitizer
Hand sanitizer is another option for preventing the spread of coronavirus, cold and flu.
Ensure that the product contains between 60 percent and 95 percent alcohol.
Skip the hand sanitizer and opt for an old-fashioned hand washing with soap and water if you notice visible dirt on your hands, which may make the hand sanitizer less effective, experts say.
3) Avoid coughing or sneezing in your hand
If you sneeze or cough into your hands, you risk touching other surfaces or people and exposing them to those germs.
“Sneezing and coughing is something we all do, particularly when we have an upper respiratory infection,” Davis said. “We prefer that people sneeze and cough into a tissue, cover your cough and then dispose of it properly.”
If you don’t have access to a tissue, the best alternative is to cough or sneeze into your inner elbow. However, it’s not the ideal method, according to Davis.
“That puts droplets on your clothing, and the virus particles can actually survive for a while there,” he said. “We’d rather you use a tissue and dispose of it.”
4) Clean and disinfect your home
Health experts advise regularly cleaning and wiping down surfaces around your home that you touch on a regular basis, including tables, counter tops, light switches and doorknobs.
“Using nine or 10 parts water and one part bleach, and just wiping gently will certainly take care of most of the viruses,” Davis said.
Other regular household detergents and water are also effective, according to the Coastal Health District.
If you have noticed on the back of your Lysol disinfectant spray that coronavirus is listed as one of the types of germs the spray can kill, you might be wondering if that applies to the current strain of COVID-19.
“I don’t know that a Lysol test has been done, but the coronaviruses are all in one big family and all somewhat related to each other,” Davis said. “I feel reasonably certain that the fact that it will kill the other coronaviruses that we know about, it will probably kill this one, also.”
5) Avoid shaking hands
“Even just shaking hands with somebody new or being in a crowd and shaking a lot of hands, [instead], give them a fist bump or the elbow bump, like you should do if you’re eating and somebody comes over and says hi,” Davis advised.
“You just bump their elbow instead, because you’re about to touch your food and put it into your mouth,” he added.