How to prepare for coronavirus in Michigan. Step 1: Breathe


Coronavirus is a “moving target” so Michiganders need to find reliable information, said Dr. Peter Gulick, infectious disease expert at Michigan State University. (Bridge photo by Robin Erb)

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As the new coronavirus outbreak becomes an ever-looming threat in the United States, state infectious disease specialists say the first step to staying safe is this: Remain calm. 

Also, don’t worry about buying a mask. 

“You really have to make sure you get the accurate information and not …  ‘Lock your doors, close the windows, buy a generator and hope for the best,’” said Dr. Peter Gulick, an infectious disease expert at the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and director of the MSU Internal Medicine Osteopathic Residency program.

That’s not only alarmist and bad advice, he said, it’s a waste of energy. The best advice — like these tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — is tried-and-true, Gulick said:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. It’s especially important after using the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • No soap and water? Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you’re sick, stay home.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • If you think you’ve come in contact with someone with the virus (there have been no confirmed cases yet in Michigan) contact your health provider immediately.
washing hands

Experts say the first line of defense against coronavirus, or COVID-19, and other contagions is one of the simplest: Wash your hands. (Shutterstock image)

The CDC currently does not advise U.S. residents to wear masks unless they are sick themselves. The coronavirus known as COVID-19 passes through most everyday masks. 

However, for those who are already ill — whether it’s with flu or the coronavirus, masks can keep cough and sneeze droplets and other contaminants contained, Gulick said.

“Then you're not spreading or spraying the virus around,” he said.

Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, on Tuesday urged health providers, schools and others to prepare for large-scale disruptions. It was a marked departure from earlier reassurances that the virus could be contained.

“It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses," Messonnier told reporters. “Disruption to everyday life might be severe."

One complication cropping up are online scams and misinformation at a time of growing public anxiety. 

It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses. Disruption to everyday life might be severe."
-- Nancy Messonnier, CDC

Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services warned residents on Wednesday of websites selling fake products and of fake emails and texts and social media used to steal money and personal information — related to the coronavirus scare.  

The “messages” might offer phony information about cases in residents’ neighborhoods or prevention tips, but they ultimately ask for donations, offer unproven treatments, or contain damaging email attachments, according to a Federal Trade Commission alert.

Gulick, of MSU, also urged Michiganders to keep facts in perspective: For example, so far confirmed counts of coronavirus indicate it is less deadly than its older cousin coronaviruses, the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). 

As it stands, this particular coronavirus appears to be lethal in just over 2.3 percent of confirmed cases. By contrast, MERS had a mortality rate of about 34.4 percent, and SARS about 9.6 percent, according to an article published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Still, Gulick noted, information on coronavirus is developing everyday, and it’s not clear how accurate earlier case counts in the outbreak in China might have been.

And he cautioned: With the understanding of coronavirus building each day, advice can change in the coming days: “It’s a moving target.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Thu, 02/27/2020 - 9:41am

This is a great article and I wish everyone would read it. It's important to remember that the overwhelming majority of individuals infected with this novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will experience mild flu-like symptoms. If you are elderly or immune-compromised, then yes, additional precautions should be taken. However, frequent handwashing and covering your sneeze/cough are the best prevention methods to limit spread.

Thu, 02/27/2020 - 10:45am

I was fine until Trump spoke to reassure us about "caronavirus", the guy who stared at an solar eclipse, wants to nuke hurricanes, thinks windmills cause cancer, etc. The dunce in charge can't even spell the virus. All his acting department heads are unqualified incompetents who were never vetted. He contradicts the CDC. Now I'm terrified!

Bob Moment, Srh
Thu, 02/27/2020 - 8:41pm

Congratulations on being the first to turn an international problem of universal concern into a partisan hack piece. Have you no shame?

These Truths!
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 11:32pm

Yes the do have shame, it is in the people's house... since you didn't get it that is donald dump. He is a shame to the office and America and yes if the supposed comander in chief cannot accept the guidance of a World class organization and keep his ignorant input to himself then I am embarrassed and yes he is and consequently I have shame. Is that clear enough for you?

Nervous Nurse
Fri, 02/28/2020 - 2:30am

Dear Petrified,
I'm terrified for the same reason you are. Canada is looking better every day.

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 6:57am

You are what’s wrong with America today.

Janet Wagner
Fri, 02/28/2020 - 4:00pm

Dear Petrified,
Luckily, the CDC has this situation well in hand. They are telling us the truth. They are the ones to go to for what's really happening. Alex Azar has assured us that when the vaccine is ready to be distributed in 1 year or more, most of us won't be able to afford it anyhow. Estimated cost: $3,500. So stay healthy--keep washing those hands! Also consult the CDC website:

Fri, 03/13/2020 - 10:03am

You are a fool. Please stay in your home. And better yet.......stay away from your computer.

Thu, 02/27/2020 - 11:19pm

Start using herbs instead of drugs….Do your research. Also read up COPD HERBAL REMEDY from BEST HEALTH HERBAL CENTRE, Couple drops on tongue replaces an inhalers. Asthma too. Read up on this! All lung problems. Educate yourself and take your own life back.

gunawan dewa saputra
Sun, 03/08/2020 - 9:36pm

Dr. Soedarsono, dr., Sp.P (K) revealed that the same perception is needed from all medical personnel for the proper and fast handling of the corona virus. WHO recommends that each country implement four steps to control outbreaks, early detection, isolation, case handling, and contact tracing.

Sun, 03/22/2020 - 2:24pm

I do not understand - "The coronavirus known as COVID-19 passes through most everyday masks.

However, for those who are already ill — whether it’s with flu or the coronavirus, masks can keep cough and sneeze droplets and other contaminants contained, Gulick said."
First he says that covid-19 passes through the masks, and then he says a mask can keep contaminants contained. Which is it?