By Sue Tiffin
An uptick of cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Canada is being reported with each daily update by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and though the public health risk of the fast-spreading virus to the general population remains low in Canada at this time, some populations might be at greater risk of complications if they encounter it, including our elderly and immunocompromised neighbours.
That’s why even if the risk is low to the general population, and it’s not particularly helpful to one’s self or family to panic, following some basic guidelines is important so that we can help protect the people in our community who are more susceptible to greater consequences of not just COVID-19, but other contagious illnesses like seasonal influenza viruses.
If you haven’t yet or recently, take a moment to ensure you have conscientious health habits to protect the people in your community in case of an outbreak here, or just in general:
• Recognize that while COVID-19 – or respiratory illnesses such as influenza, for that matter – might not be of immediate concern to you, although anyone can become vulnerable due to illness, it could affect the health and lives of people around you in ways you haven’t considered.
• Wash your hands, well and frequently. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol, if you don’t have access to soap and water. Avoid touching your face and be aware of how often you touch your eyes, nose and mouth compared to how often you wash your hands.
• Keep frequently touched and shared surfaces clean.
• Refrain from hoarding supplies, including masks, so that others including the medically vulnerable and health-care professionals are not left without.
• Employers can ensure offices, including publicly used spaces such as washrooms, are cleaned frequently, and should have a plan in place to allow for employees to stay home if sick or to self-isolate, if need be.
• Avoid crowds if you are sick, could potentially be sick, or if the situation in Canada becomes less stable. If you don’t avoid travelling, know what to do in case you get sick while abroad. Know what to do if you get sick at home – call Telehealth (1-866-797-0000) or a doctor or emergency department before visiting.
• Get your flu shot and check up on other vaccinations you might be missing so that you can help contribute to herd immunity.
• Check on neighbours regularly, but especially through the winter season when weather and isolation and peak flu season can pose further challenges for everyone.
“We must all act together now to limit further spread,” said World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the end of January this year, hoping that globally we can contain the virus from affecting people in countries with weaker health systems. The message is one that is prudent on a local level as well.
Good health makes us forget how awful – how debilitating – poor health can feel, but for many, watching the spread of COVID-19 brings immense anxiety rather than laughter over memes and joy of cheap flights and discounted cruises. We can act together to be a healthy community.