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A quick guide to help you understand, prevent and deal with coronavirus (COVID-19)

What can you do to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19? Here is what we know today:

There is no vaccine available to prevent COVID-19. Medical professionals say the best way to prevent it is to avoid being exposed to it. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means through being in close contact with another person – within about 6 feet – and through droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Here’s how the coronavirus is different from the flu.

Things you can do to try to prevent getting the coronavirus

  • Wash your hands often for 20 seconds or more after going to a public place such as the grocery store.
  • If you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, spreading it all over your hands, both fronts and backs.
  • Don’t touch any part of your face with unwashed hands.
  • Put physical distance between yourself and others – also known as “social distancing” – and refrain from shaking hands and unnecessary touching, especially if you are at a higher risk of getting sick. People considered to be at higher risk are older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes.

Things you can do to protect others

Stay home if you are sick except to get medical care.

Cover coughs and sneezes:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Practice social distancing and avoid unnecessary touching.

When to wear a face mask and when not to

  • If you are sick: You should wear a face mask when you are around other people such as when you share a room or vehicle and before you enter a health care provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a face mask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a face mask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.
  • If you are not sick: You do not need to wear a face mask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and that person is not able to wear a face mask). Face masks may be in short supply and they should be saved for health care providers and other caregivers.

Clean and disinfect

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks. If surfaces are dirty, clean them. Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.

Options include:

  • Diluting your household bleach. To make a bleach solution, mix 5 tablespoons (one-third cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.
  • Alcohol solutions. Ensure solution has at least 70% alcohol.

If you or a member of your household suspect you have coronavirus or if you or a member of your household has a confirmed case, here’s how to clean and disinfect your home.

Download a copy of this handout here.

Editor’s note: Information compiled from resources available from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of March 17, 2020.


Keep up with developments and find out more

Daily status updates on the number of cases of coronavirus in North Carolina, plus official declarations and breaking news

North Carolina coronavirus resource guide where you can find information and direct links to schools, churches, health care providers, travel advisories and more


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Staff Reports

This release, story or event was developed through multiple sources and/or is from the staff of Carolina Public Press.

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