I'm a Virus Expert and Here's How to Escape COVID
With COVID-19 cases rising and Omicron, the latest variant, rapidly spreading, it seems like there's no escaping the virus. While there is no surefire way to not catch COVID, there are precautions we can take to help avoid it like getting vaccinated, wearing masks, social distancing and more. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to Dr. J. Wes Ulm, MD, Ph.D., a physician-researcher and part of the Heroes of the COVID Crisis Series who explained ways to help prevent COVID. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Minimizing the Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Viral Particles From Person-to-Person
According to Dr. Ulm, "The first element of prevention is most facilitated via enhanced environmental and physical barriers. The former encompasses, for example, improvements in ventilation or filtration for indoor settings, social distancing, and staging of events outdoors whenever possible, while the latter is achieved through optimal personal protective equipment (PPE), particularly surgical masks or especially N95 respirators that maximize obstruction of viral particle dissemination. Keep in mind that such measures don't entirely block SARS-CoV-2 transmission per se, but they do help to decrease viral spread significantly enough to greatly diminish the viral load any given individual will receive. This sharply reduces the risk of clinical illness, and augments the chance that a given viral exposure will result essentially in variolation (natural immunity through a confined viral dose that stimulates the so-called adaptive immune system, specific for SARS-CoV-2) instead of a severe case requiring hospitalization."
Optimizing the Immune Response to Mitigate Clinical Illness For Any Given Viral Load Within a Recipient
"The second element of prevention is essentially what communities are seeking to achieve through vaccines and (particularly for omicron) booster shots, which do not—in their present forms—prevent person-to-person spread of COVID-19, but do help to mitigate the severity of illness and increase the likelihood of a mild disease course," Dr. Ulm explains.
Boosting Surveillance For Potential Contagion
Dr. Ulm states, "The third element of prevention is, above all, a matter of widespread testing and, where possible, tracking and contact tracing. For large events and in-person conferences in particular (such as major business meetings or organizational symposia), thorough testing is crucial to minimizing spread, including for vaccinated individuals who, again, can still spread and catch COVID-19, particularly the delta and omicron variants."
Wash Your Hands
Another method of helping avoid COVID is to wash your hands frequently and don't touch your face. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states the following:
"Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- It's especially important to wash your hands:
- Before eating or preparing food
- Before touching your face
- After using the restroom
- After leaving a public place
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After handling your mask
- After changing a diaper
- After caring for someone sick
- After touching animals or pets
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands."
Monitor Your Health Daily
The CDC also recommends watching out for COVID symptoms daily. Be alert for the following symptoms:
- "Fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- Take your temperature if symptoms develop.
- Don't take your temperature within 30 minutes of exercising or after taking medications that could lower your temperature, like acetaminophen.
- Follow CDC guidance if symptoms develop.
- Monitoring symptoms is especially important if you are running errands, going into the office or workplace, and in settings where it may be difficult to keep a physical distance of 6 feet."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.