How to protect yourself from the coronavirus (COVID-19)

The coronavirus detected in China, known as SARS-CoV-2, and which gives rise to the COVID-19 infection, has caused a high number of cases of respiratory infection, since it can be easily transmitted by coughing and sneezing through the droplets of saliva and respiratory secretions.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of a common flu, which can lead to the development of cough, fever, shortness of breath and headache. Since not much is known about how the virus works, the WHO recommendations are that anyone with symptoms who has been in China, Italy or other places with a large number of cases, or who has contacted someone who may be infected, contact your health authorities to find out how to proceed.

Check out the main symptoms of COVID-19 and take our online test to find out what your risk is .

General care to protect yourself from the virus

As for people who are not infected, the guidelines are especially to try to protect themselves against possible contamination. This protection can be done through general measures against any type of virus, which include:

  1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and waterfor at least 20 seconds, especially after being in contact with someone who may be sick;
  2. Avoid going to public places, closed and crowded, like shopping malls or gyms, preferring to stay at home as long as possible;
  3. Cover your mouth and nose whenever you need to cough or sneeze, using a disposable handkerchief or clothes, for example;
  4. Avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth;
  5. Wear a personal protective mask if you are sick, to cover your nose and mouth whenever you need to be indoors or with other people;
  6. Do not share personal objectsthat may be in contact with saliva droplets or respiratory secretions, such as cutlery, glasses and toothbrushes;
  7. Avoid contact with wild animalsor any type of animal that appears to be sick;
  8. Keep the indoors well ventilated, opening the window to allow air circulation;
  9. Cook food well before eating, especially meat, and wash or peel food that does not need to be cooked, such as fruit.

Watch the following video and better understand how coronavirus transmission happens and how to protect yourself:

1. How to protect yourself at home

During a pandemic situation, as is happening with COVID-19, it is possible that it is recommended to stay at home as long as possible, to avoid crowding people in public places, as this can facilitate the transmission of the virus.

In such cases, it is very important to have some more specific care at home to protect the whole family, which include:

  • Remove shoes and clothes at the entrance to the house, especially if you have been in a public place with many people;
  • Wash your hands before entering the houseor, if this is not possible, immediately after entering the house;
  • Regularly clean surfaces and objects that are most used, such as tables, counters, door handles, remote controls or cell phones, for example. For cleaning, normal detergent or a mixture of 250 ml of water with 1 tablespoon of bleach (sodium hypochlorite) can be used. Cleaning must be done with gloves;
  • Wash clothes used outdoors or those that are visibly soiled. The ideal is to wash at the highest temperature recommended for the type of fabric of each piece. During this process it is advisable to wear gloves;
  • Avoid sharing dishes, cutlery or glasseswith family members, including sharing food;
  • Avoid close contact with family members, especially with those who need to regularly go to public places, avoiding kisses or hugs during periods of greater epidemic.

In addition, it is important to maintain all general precautions against viruses, such as covering your nose and mouth whenever you need to cough or sneeze, as well as avoid crowding many people within the same room.

If there is a sick person in the house it is very important to have extra preventive measures, it may even be necessary to place that person in an isolation room.

How to prepare an isolation room at home

The isolation room serves to separate sick people from the rest of the healthy family members, until they are discharged by a doctor or until a negative coronavirus test is performed. That’s because, as the coronavirus causes flu-like or cold-like symptoms, there is no way of knowing who may actually be infected or not.

This type of room does not need special preparation, but the door must always be closed and the sick person must not leave the room. If it is necessary to go out to go to the bathroom, for example, it is important that a mask is used so that the person can move around the corridors of the house. In the end, the bathroom must be cleaned and disinfected each time it is used, especially the toilet, shower and sink.

Inside the room, the person must also maintain the same general care, such as using a disposable handkerchief to cover the mouth and nose whenever he needs to cough or sneeze and wash or disinfect his hands frequently. Any object that is used inside the room, such as plates, glasses or cutlery, must be transported with gloves and washed immediately, with soap and water.

In addition, if a healthy person needs to enter the room they should wash their hands before and after being in the room, as well as using disposable gloves and a mask.

Who should be placed in the isolation room

The isolation room should be used for people who are sick with mild or moderate symptoms that can be treated at home, such as general malaise, constant coughing and sneezing, low fever or runny nose, for example.

In case the person has more severe symptoms, such as fever that does not improve or difficulty breathing, it is very important to contact the health authorities and follow the advice of the professionals. If it is recommended to go to the hospital, you should avoid using public transport and always use a disposable mask.

2. How to protect yourself at work

During pandemic periods, as with COVID-19, the ideal is that the work is done from home whenever possible. However, in situations where this is not possible, there are some rules that help to reduce the risk of catching the virus in the workplace:

  • Avoid close contact with co-workersthrough kisses or hugs;
  • Ask sick workers to stay at homeand not go to work. The same applies to people who have symptoms of unknown origin;
  • Avoid crowding many people in closed rooms, for example, in the cafeteria, taking turns with few people to have lunch or a snack;
  • Regularly clean all surfaces of the workplace, especially tables, chairs and all work objects, such as computers or screens. For cleaning, a normal detergent or a mixture of 250 ml of water with 1 tablespoon of bleach (sodium hypochlorite) can be used. Cleaning must be done with disposable gloves.

In addition to these rules, general precautions against any type of virus should be added, such as keeping windows open whenever possible, to allow air to circulate and clean the environment, for example.

3. How to protect yourself in public places

As in the case of work, public places should also be used only when necessary. This includes going to the market or the pharmacy to buy groceries or medicine, for example.

Other locations, such as shopping malls, cinemas, gymnasiums, cafes or stores should be avoided, as they are not considered essential goods and can lead to the accumulation of people.

Still, if it is necessary to go to some public place it is important to have some more specific care, such as:

  • Stay as little time as possible in the place, leaving immediately after completing the purchase;
  • Avoid using the door handles with your hands, using your elbow to open the door whenever possible;
  • Wash your hands before leaving the public placeto avoid contaminating your car or home;
  • Give preference to times with fewer people.

Public places in the open air and with good ventilation, such as parks or gardens, can be safely used for walking or exercising, but it is advisable to avoid participating in group activities.

What to do in case of suspicion

Suspected infection with the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is considered when the person:

  • He has been less than 14 days in countries with a large number of cases, such as China, Italy, Iran or South Korea and has symptoms of high fever, persistent cough and shortness of breath;
  • She had contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and has symptoms of the infection, such as severe cough, shortness of breath and high fever.

In such cases it is recommended that the person call the “Disque Saúde” line through the number 136 or Whatsapp: (61) 9938-0031, to receive guidance from health professionals at the Ministry. If it is indicated to go to the hospital to have tests and confirm the diagnosis, it is important to take some precautions to avoid passing the possible virus to other people, such as:

  • Wear a protective mask;
  • Cover your mouth and nose with tissue paper whenever you need to cough or sneeze, discarding in the trash after each use;
  • Avoid direct contact with other people, through touching, kissing or hugging;
  • Wash your hands before leaving home and as soon as you arrive at the hospital;
  • Avoid using public transport to go to the hospital or health clinic;
  • Avoid being indoors with other people.

In addition, it is important to warn people who have been in close contact in the past 14 days, such as family and friends, about the suspicion, so that these people can also be alert to the appearance of symptoms.

At the hospital, the person suspected of COVID-19 will be placed in an isolated location to prevent the virus from spreading, and then some blood tests will be done, such as PCR, analysis of respiratory secretions and chest tomography, which they serve to identify the type of virus that is causing the symptoms, leaving isolation only when the test results are negative for COVID-19.

Do I have to wear a mask?

The disposable mask is not mandatory for the entire population, but it is indicated for sick people who need to go to the hospital or other public place, such as the health post or pharmacy. That’s because, the mask protects people around it from coming in contact with droplets that can be released during coughing or sneezing.

Apparently healthy people, however, do not need to use a mask, as there are other more important and effective hygiene measures, such as washing their hands regularly with soap and water, avoiding close contact with apparently sick people and avoid touching their hands on the face.

Even so, if a mask is chosen, the “surgical mask” type mask is sufficient in places that do not have a high number of cases, as these masks cover the nose and mouth, preventing the droplets from sneezing. and coughs are not spread through the air.

However, in regions with a higher risk of infection, where there may already be a high viral load in the air, it is important to use another type of special masks, type N95, N100, PFF2 or PFF3, in addition to goggles, to protect the eyes. This type of protection is generally used in places with the highest number of cases or by health professionals in the hospital, when in direct contact with infected patients.

How to get coronavirus

The types of viruses in the coronavirus family can infect animals, such as camels, bats or snakes, and the first cases of COVID-19, in fact, were identified in people who had contact with wild animals. So it is believed that this virus has mutated and passed on to people through these animals.

However, many people infected with the new coronavirus were not in contact with these animals, but were close to people infected by the animals, confirming that transmission from person to person is possible through inhalation of respiratory droplets and contact with infected people.

Thus, and as with the flu, it is important to take protective measures such as washing your hands frequently, avoiding putting your hands on your eyes, nose and mouth, as well as avoiding public places with a lot of people.

How long SARS-CoV-2 survives

According to research published by a group of researchers in the United States in March 2020 [1] , it was found that SARS-CoV-2, the new virus from China, is able to survive on some surfaces for up to 3 days, however, this time may vary depending on the material and the conditions of the environment.

Thus, in general, the survival time of the virus that causes COVID-19 appears to be:

  • Plastic and stainless steel: up to 3 days;
  • Covers: 4 hours;
  • Cardboard: 24 hours;
  • In the form of aerosols, after fogging, for example: up to 3 hours.

This study suggests that contact with infected surfaces can also be a form of transmission of the new coronavirus, however further investigation is needed to confirm this hypothesis. In any case, it is necessary to adopt precautionary measures, such as hand washing, use of alcohol gel and frequent disinfection of surfaces that may be infected. This disinfection can be done with normal detergents, 70% alcohol or a mixture of 250 ml of water with 1 tablespoon of bleach (sodium hypochlorite).

Watch the following video and see the importance of these measures in preventing a virus epidemic:

How the virus affects the body

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19, known as SARS-CoV-2, was recently discovered and, therefore, it is not yet known what it can cause in the body.

However, it is known that, in some risk groups, the infection can cause quite severe symptoms that can be life-threatening. These groups include people with the weakest immune system, such as:

  • Elderly over 65 years;
  • People with chronic illnesses like diabetes, breathing or heart problems;
  • People with kidney failure;
  • People undergoing some type of treatment that affects the immune system, such as chemotherapy;
  • People who have undergone transplants.

In these groups, the new coronavirus appears to cause symptoms similar to those of pneumonia, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which need intensive treatment in the hospital.


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