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What I learned by reporting the coronavirus outbreak in China that could help you




Eunice Yoonis, head of the CNBC Beijing office. It covers the coronavirus epidemic in China since the start of the epidemic.

I am not a doctor and I do not play it on television.

That said, I picked up a few items while covering the coronavirus epidemic in China that could help people in the United States and Europe cope with the epidemics that are now spreading in their country. original.

First of all, try not to panic. The good news is that we all know a lot more about COVID-19 than when it first appeared. It is to your advantage.

People wearing masks visit Qianmen Street in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic March 7, 2020 in Beijing, China.

Mao Jianjun | China News Service | Getty Images

How to protect yourself?

  • Wash your hands: Wash for at least 20 seconds or use disinfectant wipes or disinfectant, then let your hands dry.
  • Keep your distance: Stay at least 1 meter or 3 feet from other people. Two meters if you can swing it.

You've probably heard the personal hygiene tips a lot, but it'll probably be your best protection, it's definitely mine. In China, health officials maintain the primary means of spreading COVID-19 through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing.

They say the virus has been detected in feces and, in nearby neighborhoods, aerosol transmission has been suspected. However, the most common way to get it is to use droplets from infected people. So keeping your hands clean, not rubbing your eyes and keeping your distance from the next person will go a long way.

Empty shelves where hand sanitizing gels were sold in a London pharmacy on February 4, 2020.

Justin Tallis | AFP | Getty Images

Do I have to wear a mask?

In China, masks are highly recommended. In other words, they are essentially required and enforced by the authorities. The United States only recommends them to people suspected of being sick.

There are specific reasons why China basically requires everyone to wear a mask. China is a large country with large parts still in development, and public health education is lacking. The government therefore ordered residents of the most affected areas to wear masks and strongly advised the same to the rest of the population.

People here are used to government orders in a way that many in Western societies are not. Also, at first, little was known about the virus.

Disinfectant and protective material to fight against coronaviruses.

Eunice Yoon | CNBC

If I lived outside of China, I would wear a mask according to my lifestyle. If you drive your own car and shop at stores that are not too crowded and you are not sick, you don't really need a mask. However, if you are crowded on a train in Manhattan, you may want to consider carrying one.

Chinese health officials have discovered that patients with coronavirus can be contagious without showing any symptoms for 14 days in some or more rare cases. Last week, officials from the World Health Organization told reporters that new data shows that there are not as many asymptomatic cases as they thought at the time. # 39; origin. The fact that there is still a lot that they do not know about the virus.

I have heard the argument that masks may be defective as protection since they are generally not a perfect seal. However, I don't see the harm in wearing one in cases where the crowd cannot be avoided.

Can I travel safely?

A friend asked me that the other day. I think it depends on the risk level of where you are traveling and your personal risk profile. The death rate is still being assessed, although the latest release from the World Health Organization and China's highest health authority is 3% to 4%. Due to comprehensive testing in South Korea, the final death rate could turn out to be much lower. However, the pattern of those most at risk has remained largely the same.

In China, the death rate was highest for people in the 70s or 80s or people with compromised immune systems between 8% and 14.8% based on February 11 data. For example, for people with heart disease, the death rate was 10.5%. For most of the others, however, the death rate is less than 0.5%.

So if you are traveling between places with few cases, the chances of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 are usually low. I would take precautions. If on a plane, I could wear a mask.

However, I would make a decision based on a specific risk assessment. If you have just recovered from cancer, do you need to fly today? If you are in good health and in your twenties and you are going to a business meeting in a city with no confirmed cases, is it necessary to cancel?

A security guard dressed in protective gear in Beijing, China.

Eunice Yoon | CNBC

Is there something you shouldn't leave home without?

When I go out to report, here is what I now carry in my purse:

  • Disinfectant or disinfectant hand wipes. Sometimes both.
  • Alcohol spray, at least 75% proof.
  • An additional N95 or KF94 mask.
  • Gloves. Any type, but usually rubber or latex.

I wear the alcohol spray only because I find it more effective at wiping tables or other surfaces when I'm on the go, Chinese health officials recommend 75% proof. I have an extra mask because I am in China and the police berated me for removing my mask while on a walk in a park.

As far as the shelf life of a mask is concerned, the general rule that I hear from factories is that medical masks should be discarded after a day. N95 masks, which filter 95% of airborne particles, can be used for three days. If a mask contains moisture, throw it away. It's cold outside in Beijing so I always wear gloves.

The gloves protect me from direct contact with surfaces. I wash or wipe my clothes or leather gloves everyday. I throw away latex or rubber gloves after one or two uses, especially when I have to type emails on my phone outside before I go live. Don't forget a small hand cream or petroleum jelly. All hand washing and disinfection is brutal on the skin.

What am I missing?

Stay as healthy as possible. There are different treatment protocols, but so far if you get COVID-19 your best defense will be your own immune system. I move my body around my apartment as much as possible, which usually involves cleaning it.

Try to eat well. I order from restaurants I trust, but I usually eat more at home. I fall asleep when I can, which has been difficult with all the news.

Another thing is to take care of and control your mental state. Try not to give in to hoarding. I understand this because I felt the need to hoard at first, too, to buy an extra laundry detergent and hand wash when I really didn't need it.

However, I also realized, while realizing the epidemic, how connected we really are. I wanted everyone around me to have their own hand sanitizer and all medical workers to have enough masks for themselves and, of course, for the sick. It is in our interest to share with each other, so that we all stay healthier and overcome the coronavirus faster.

That said, expect moments of panic. I was so terrified one morning seeing the security guard of my building in a combination of hazardous materials, I barely got to work. However, panic and overreaction come at a cost.

In fact, I see China coping with the fact that now its severe restrictions have stifled business and paralyzed economic activity to an unknown degree. This is a situation that other countries can avoid and you can therefore arm yourself with more and more knowledge about the coronavirus.

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