BRAD ROBICHAUX — Stay informed and stay healthy

Published 12:08 am Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Many schools are closing, sports are suspending competition, governments are banning large gatherings and toilet paper and paper towels seem like rarer finds at the grocery store than a grocery kart with four working wheels.

Yes, maybe lots of us were hoping that March might experience at least a little madness of the NCAA basketball variety, but the world hasn’t yet gone mad from fear of the coronavirus — though people should probably stop hoarding toilet paper. A lot of these admittedly alarming developments are precautions being taken to hold infections back.

If you’re anxious about what’s going on, or about getting infected, I think the best thing you can do is arm yourself with accurate knowledge. In service to this belief, I’d like to put down a little information from the World Health Organization about the coronavirus, COVID-19 (the name of the disease this particular new virus is causing) and what to do about it.

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What is it?

Coronavirus is a name given to a bunch of different strains of viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses. The current pandemic of COVID-19 is being caused by a strain of coronavirus that was just recently discovered. The current outbreak started in Wuhan, China, in December of 2019 and has since spread throughout the world.

How does it spread?

This virus spreads from droplets coming from an infected person’s nose or mouth when they cough or exhale. A person can catch the virus by breathing in these droplets or touching surfaces these droplets are on and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth.

The WHO says that catching COVID-19 from someone who shows no symptoms at all is very low, though some people who are infected might only experience mild symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. It’s still possible to catch the virus from someone with only a mild cough.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness and a dry cough. Others might also experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. The WHO says the symptoms usually are mild and appear gradually, and sometimes people who are infected don’t develop any symptoms or even feel bad.

The WHO also says that approximately one in six people who get COVID-19 can become seriously ill and have trouble breathing. While most people who get the virus recover without needing special treatment, those experiencing fever, coughing and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

It can take anywhere from one to 14 days after exposure to the virus before symptoms start happening, but the most common incubation period the WHO reports is about five days.

Am I going to get it?

How likely you are to get the virus is going to depend a whole lot on where you go and what you and those you interact with do. Avoid going to areas that have a lot of confirmed cases. At noon on Sunday, The Texas Tribune reported on its website that Harris County, which includes the city of Houston, had 10 confirmed cases, while Brazoria County reported two and Galveston County had one.

Since this is a new virus and we’re still learning about it there’s a lot we don’t yet know, but the WHO reports that older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes, seem more likely to develop serious symptoms than others.

How do I protect myself?

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Keep away from people that appear to be coughing and sneezing by at least three feet. If you have to cough or sneeze, do so in a tissue or into your bent elbow. If you aren’t feeling well, please stay home and avoid interacting with people if you can.

One of the hardest things to do, I’ve found, is to avoid touching your face with your hands. Nothing has made me more aware of just how frequently I do this than now. Be mindful of it and try your best to avoid it.

Don’t just take my word for it — listen to doctors, researchers and the folks who are studying this thing. Be smart and stay healthy.

Brad Robichaux is a reporter for The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at