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Infectious disease specialist Gonzalo Bearman spoke about COVID-19, what people can do to stay healthy and medical center protocols.

COVID-19 — the fast-moving outbreak informally known as coronavirus — continues to spread, increasingly affecting the United States, prompting companies and governments to curtail travel, and throwing global markets into flux. Hospitals and medical centers globally are preparing for its arrival. 

What are some things that people can do right now to stay healthy and limit the risk of getting COVID-19?

The common sense things are to try to be as healthy as possible. Get enough sleep. Stay hydrated. Stay focused on your dietary plans and eat heathy.

If you smoke, quit smoking. If you drink a lot of alcohol, quit drinking or drink in moderation. Get an influenza vaccine. I realize that doesn’t prevent against COVID-19. However, influenza continues to be the clear and present infectious disease danger to Virginia and the United States. So if you can prevent yourself from getting an infection such as influenza, that’ll prevent other infectious disease complications, most likely.

Wash your hands frequently. If you have a cough, practice cough and respiratory hygiene or etiquette. Cover your cough, use a tissue, throw it out. And if you’re sick or unwell, please don’t go to work and potentially expose others. 

Do people who are well really need to wear a mask?

A properly fitted mask will work to reduce the risk of infection or transmission, particularly for health care workers who are wearing them when caring for sick patients. That’s because the health care workers can be very close to the patient. 

The benefit of the mask in the community setting — walking on the sidewalk, going for a stroll in the park, going to a concert, or even a flight — is probably much less, even potentially minimal. It’s probably having more of a psychological impact than an actual physical transmission-based impact. 

In good health!