During a viral outbreak, we must remain calm and focus the discussion on what matters the most: how to prevent virus infections and stay healthy.
Viral infections are quite common; in 2009, the influenza subtype H1N1 was the most common cause of the flu. It quickly spread to more than 200 countries in just a few months and killed almost 20 thousand people in about one year. Shortly after, the World Health Organization declared the pandemic over. At the time, there was a major investment in raising awareness on the prevention of virus transmission.
Considering the current state of affairs, it is worth remembering how to protect yourself from viruses. Go on and read more!
1. Viral respiratory infections
There are two types of respiratory infections: viral upper respiratory tract infections and lower respiratory tract infections. The first includes diseases such as the common cold, sinusitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis, and the flu while the latter includes diseases such as pneumonia, bronchiolitis, tuberculosis, bronchitis, and also the flu.
As the name itself indicates, viral respiratory infections are caused by different viruses and are classified accordingly. Its severity also varies greatly depending on the type of virus and the condition of the person affected.
2. Viral respiratory infection symptoms
Logically, the symptoms will also depend on the type of virus that is causing the specific respiratory infection. However, it is possible to identify some common symptoms.
Constant runny nose
If everything works out well and the immune system is able to fight the virus effectively by itself, the symptoms will disappear after a few days. Typically, people use over-the-counter medications to fight annoying symptoms – to stop constant coughing and the runny nose, or lower the fever.
In some cases, the virus can cause a number of complications that include pneumonia (that may lead to ARDS – acute respiratory distress syndrome), bronchiolitis, meningitis, encephalitis, among others.
If the infected person is debilitated by age or other medical conditions, these complications can be fatal. According to the World Health Organization and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 600 thousand people die of respiratory diseases linked to the seasonal flu every year.
3. How to protect yourself and prevent viruses from spreading
Viruses are spread when someone infected releases droplets into the air through coughing or sneezing. These microscopic droplets are then breathed in by another person that also becomes infected with the virus. Another way to spread the virus is through direct or indirect contact with an infected person.
If an infected person touches his mouth or nose, for example, the virus is now present in his hands and can spread to any surface or object he touches. From then on, all you have to do is touch that same object or surface and the virus will reach your hands. It’s only a matter of time before the virus can find a way to enter your organism: usually through the mouth, eyes, or nose.
It is worth noticing that there is a thing called the incubation period – the time between becoming infected and developing symptoms. That is one of the major difficulties in containing an epidemic and preventing it from becoming a pandemic. It is usually one to ten days.
There a few behaviors that need to be turned into habits. Here’s what you must do:
4. Wash your hands
It all comes down to this: hand washing. It is simple. It is effective. And it must be done several times throughout the day. Water and soup are enough, just make sure you spend about 20 seconds rubbing your hands against each other with soap before rinsing them under running water – and don’t forget to clean the space between your fingers and under your nails!
If for some reason you can’t wash your hands with running water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will get the job done. However, you should bear in mind that it is not as effective.
5. Stop touching your nose, eyes, and mouth
As we have said, once the virus reaches the surface of your hands, it is only a matter of time before it finds a way into your body. Unless you refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. These are the three main points of entrance for both viruses and bacteria.
It may seem like an easy thing to do, but the truth is that we touch our faces several times during the day without even realizing it. At first, it will require some sort of effort. That’s for sure. But it must be done, as it is an essential habit to stay away from viral infections.
6. Practice respiratory hygiene
Along with hand washing, this is the most effective way to prevent the spread of viruses. Simply use your inner elbow to cover your mouth and absorb the droplets every time you cough or sneeze.
7. Face masks
Don’t be the type of person that wears a face mask and causes panic in the streets for no reason. This piece of medical equipment is designed to prevent the virus from spreading and should only be worn by people who are already infected with a virus, people who have valid reasons to suspect they are infected (coughing, sneezing, high fever), and people who are caring for infected patients (medical staff, mainly). Those are the ones that really need it.