The importance of prevention: It’s not just for you, it’s for your friends and family too

practical advice covid 19

People are wondering why it is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and asking practical questions about how to do so. Conflicting statements on the internet, including social media, are causing confusion. The reason to focus on prevention, plain and simple, is that preventing the spread of the virus will save lives. There are several reasons for that.

Prevention is not panic, it’s just good sense

• Preventing the spread could be lifesaving for the most vulnerable members of our Ram Family. Some CSU students, staff, faculty, alumni, and members of our surrounding community are more at risk from this illness because of pre-existing conditions like heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, or because of older age. The prevention we practice is not only for ourselves but for our Ram Family and loved ones.

• Delaying transmission over time can help those with COVID-19 get the medical help they need. Most healthy, young adults will not need hospital care, but it may be critical for older people and those with pre-existing conditions. Slowing the spread could help hospitals and doctors keep up with the number of people who need to be in the hospital at any given time.

Flatten the curve

Flatten the curve graphic

Taking actions to stop the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can help keep the nation’s hospitals and healthcare providers from being overwhelmed with cases. Source: www.nytimes.com/2020/03/11/science/coronavirus-curve-mitigation-infection.html

CDC guidelines can help you stop the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19

You may have seen colorful flyers around campus describing the most important advice to stop the spread of COVID-19.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds – to estimate that amount of time, count “one one-thousand, two one-thousand…” all the way to “… twenty one-thousand.”

• Clean and disinfect surfaces – in the library, at your desk, in the cafeteria, on public computers. If you can’t find a wipe, you can use a moist towel with soap from the soap dispenser. If you can’t clean a surface, avoid touching it – open doors and press elevator buttons with your elbow instead of your hands. Use a dry towel to open cabinets, appliances, or other frequently touched surfaces.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth – eat your food with a knife and fork, even if it’s pizza. Don’t sit close to anyone who is coughing (but be kind about it). If you have to touch your food, make sure you wash your hands for 20 seconds first.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Have you heard the term social distancing? It means staying 6 feet away from people who might be sick or exposed. Avoid sitting close to others, don’t share drinks, and make sure you are not studying within 6 feet of someone who might be sick. Stay away from crowded places and avoid travel if you have to go by plane or bus.

• If you are sick, it is important to keep from spreading it – don’t leave your room except to get medical care, and if you have a roommate, it would be ideal if that person could make arrangements to stay elsewhere (again, don’t forget to be kind). It’s also important to let your friends and family know so they can check in with you on a regular basis.

• Cover your cough with a tissue, then throw it away in the trash – don’t forget to wash your hands too!

What to do if you are feeling sick

Feeling sick doesn’t mean you have COVID-19, but it does mean you should be very careful about practicing social isolation. It means staying in, letting others know not to come too close, getting friends to drop off your meals – not sharing your illness, any illness, is always a good social practice..

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other common diseases (fever greater than 100.5° F/38° C; cough; shortness of breath; chest pain when breathing; difficulty breathing), and some people who contract the virus have very mild symptoms.

Here are some practical guidelines to help – but remember that seeking medical care is the safest option.

If you are concerned you have been exposed to the virus because you’ve had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, and:

• You have NO symptoms – FIRST contact CSU’s Public Health Administrator at colostate.edu/WPublicH or the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment, larimer.org/health, to be assessed. Until they are able to assist you, it is very important not to put others at risk. Self-isolation is very important. That means attending classes remotely, staying away from crowds and other people (particularly older people or those with pre-existing conditions), and warning others not to come too close.

• You HAVE symptoms – You need to seek medical care. Call ahead to let medical personnel know about your potential exposure before you go to the hospital or clinic. Be sure to tell them if you have a cough or fever.

If you are sick but no one in your area has COVID-19, you don’t think you have been exposed to the virus, and:

• You have MILD symptoms – Self-isolation: attend classes remotely, stay away from crowds and other people (particularly older people or those with pre-existing conditions).

• You have MODERATE to SEVERE (fever, trouble breathing) symptoms – You need to seek medical diagnosis and care. Call ahead to let medical personnel know about your potential exposure before you go to the hospital or clinic. Be sure to tell them if you have a cough or fever.

If you are sick and a lot of people in your area have COVID-19, you should seek medical care whether you think you have been exposed or not. Call ahead to let medical personnel know about your potential exposure before you go to the hospital or clinic. Be sure to tell them if you have a cough or fever.

Practicing these prevention guidelines can help you and those around you minimize risk of exposure or spreading the virus. Safety is paramount, and we all can play a role by acting responsibly. Additionally, regularly check the updates posted on CSU’s COVID-19 Coronavirus webpage: safety.colostate.edu/coronavirus. This is your source for the most up-to-date information about the CSU response surrounding the virus.

Heather Pidcoke, M.D., Ph.D., is Colorado State University’s Chief Medical Research Officer