Happiness in Times of Epidemics, Quarantines and Coronavirus (Covid-19)
So tonight’s post is a little different type of post for the Ministry of Happiness. You see our happiness is greatly impacted by stress and worry. And the current global epidemic that is likely to soon officially be labelled a pandemic is certainly causing a lot of people to worry and be stressed. So tonight I hope to do what I can do to help you with that worry and stress by providing you solid information and advice.
Yes, the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19 is a serious disease. Coronavirus is a category of viruses that includes the viruses that cause the diseases SARS and MERS. Both of these diseases and the current coronavirus are serious respiratory diseases that are more deadly than the common flu viruses we see every year. Coronavirus may also be more contagious than the flu, but this has yet to be confirmed. However, given the significant response to the virus by governments around the world and the lower number of current infections. YOU ARE, AT THIS TIME, FAR LESS LIKELY TO CATCH THE CORONAVIRUS THAN THE FLU. Also, the people that have died so far from the disease have generally been people with additional conditions, something the medical field calls co-morbidities. So people over the age of 60 and those with high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease are at a higher risk. Younger healthy people, even if infected, are likely to survive the coronavirus and currently the majority of the infections have been less than serious.
Now for me, a 55 year-old guy with all three of the co-morbidities listed above (high blood pressure, diabetes and a heart condition) I’m at a higher risk of death from this disease. So why am I not afraid? The reasons start with history.
The Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918
The Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 infected one-third of all of the people on Earth, over 500 million people. It killed somewhere between 20 and 50 million people including over 675,000 Americans. It was the most deadly epidemic that has ever hit the United States of America. The biological and medical communities have known for a long time that it was inevitable that there would be another global pandemic. If you want to read more in depth, there’s a great book called, The Coming Plague by Laura Garrett. There was fear that SARS would be that pandemic, it turned out not to be. It’s possible that Covid-19 will be that pandemic. If this disease continues to appear in more and more countries, and particularly if growing disease clusters occur in many countries like they have in South Korea and Italy, this is that pandemic. The only issue then becomes how severe will it be.
The world is very different in 2020 than it was in 1918. First off we have much better medicine and medical technology. We have antibiotics which would be given to anyone who is sick which stops secondary infections from killing those who get sick. We have ventilators that can help sick people breathe and increase their potential for surviving the disease. Our communication technology is better, so vital information can get to people more easily. That means that accurate info as well as directions related to quarantine rules can reach everyone. These factors should mean that we’re better suited for a pandemic not to kill 10% of those infected. It will still be serious, but likely not as serious as the 1918 pandemic. This is one reason I’m not so afraid of this disease.
Another reason I’m not so afraid is that we know how to behave better than we have in the past. There is lots of good information out there about how to most effectively protect yourself against getting sick. So let’s talk about what some of those things are. According to the World Health Organization the following things are crucial to keeping yourself healthy and that includes colds and flues as well as the coronavirus.
Wash your hands frequently – and do it correctly. This means washing with soap, and washing hands thoroughly, backs and fronts, between your fingers and for long enough. Singing through the song Happy Birthday all the way through is a good way to time it.
Maintain social distancing – when you or someone else is coughing or sneezing, try to generally keep at least three feet to keep from having tiny droplets travel from one person to another. Breathing in these tiny droplets is the most likely way to get infected.
Avoid touching your face – particularly your eyes, nose or mouth. Virus typically makes its way to your hands first, then gets transferred to you when you touch your face.
If you get sick isolate yourself and get medical attention early – If you feel ill stay away from other people and if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, get to a medical professional, your doctor, the ER or Urgent Care and get checked out.
Notice what isn’t in that advice, wear a mask. You don’t need to wear a mask if you do what’s above, except if you’re around sick people. Or, if you are sick yourself to keep you from infecting others. And importantly, unless you are using an N95 mask, you are just as well off wearing a bandana over your face.
It’s important to also keep the surfaces you encounter clean. So wipe down counters, tables and other surfaces. And remember to appropriately clean your touch screens. On my phone I have a screen protection film on the screen and I wipe that daily with alcohol to clean and kill off any germs. Be VERY careful though when using anything directly on a laptop or other unprotected touch screen and use something the manufacturer recommends. Remember to keep your work spaces at work clean and disinfected as well.
For the near future, you may want to consider whether or not being with crowds is a good idea. If you are in an open air setting, with lots of space, it should be no problem. As well, any place else you can maintain appropriate social distancing should be ok. I have a conference next week that I’m still planning on attend. I also have a trip to Las Vegas at the end of March, I’ll assess whether to not to do that trip based on the situation at the time. If large clusters of community transferred coronavirus are occurring I’ll personally be very cautious about being around crowds. For a change being an introvert might turn out to be an advantage.
Do what you normally do to stay healthy?
So in addition to what I talked about above, some of the best things you can do are the things you should normally do to be healthy. So yes, eat right, exercise and absolutely get enough sleep. Don’t let worry or stress impact these things. The better your general health, the better your immune system and the less likely you are to get sick, whether it’s cold, flu or the coronavirus.
What if there are community transferred clusters of Covid 19 or quarantines?
So let’s talk about the semi-worst case scenario. Let’s say the Bay Area of California, which currently has seven total cases, turns into the type of community transfer outbreak we are seeing in Italy and/or South Korea. Well what do we do then? The thing is that public health authorities will be our guide at that point. Most likely people living in those areas will find schools and/or businesses closed for a couple of weeks to help slow the spread of the disease. So how should you be prepared?
Bay area folks also live in earthquake and wildfire country and as such should already be somewhat prepared for a disaster situation. In general what this means is enough supplies to live for a couple of weeks without access to stores. My recommendations are pretty straightforward. You should have some water on hand, not that quarantine would mean your water would go off, but it’s always good to have some on hand. At least a gallon per person for three days. You should have a couple of weeks worth of food on hand, preferably non-perishable foods. This means having canned goods, dried beans, rice and pasta on hand. Top Ramen works great and is very cheap, light, and easy to store. But if this happens you don’t want to feel like you’re in prison. So root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, etc…) store well. A variety of canned food is important, as well as frozen vegetables if you have the space and some meat frozen in the freezer would be nice as well. I also recommend that you have some powdered drink mixes on hand, they store easy and since you should have access to water, they provide some variety.
It’s also important to have at least a couple of weeks of prescribed medications on hand, some basic first aid kits and given that fever is a symptom for coronavirus it’s always a good idea to have a thermometer on hand so you can have accurate information as to whether or not someone has a fever. You likely already have cleaning products to keep the surfaces in your house disinfected.
What I don’t believe you need to do, like the folks I’m seeing on videos on the internet, is to run out and by 50 pound bags of rice, cases upon cases of water or enough dehydrated food to live for a month. From talking with friends who are in China, stores never completely closed there, restaurants still did delivery and only in very rare places was there a complete community lock down that disrupted people’s ability to access these things.
So what’s my best advice around the coronavirus pandemic?
I’m going to steal this advice from one of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams, who wrote the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. On the inside guide of the book are the two most important words in the galaxy, DON’T PANIC.
Seriously, don’t panic, as I’ve written above there are lots of common sense things you can do to keep yourself reasonably safe. Do these things and you should be fine, your likelihood of getting infected is still extremely low. Stay prepared and it will make you feel a little less frantic about what’s happening. Stay away from all of the crazy conspiracy theories on the internet. The government isn’t using this to take over, 5G wifi is not causing this, the simple fact is disease is a fact of life, and pandemics are inevitable. It’s been 100 years since the last really significant pandemic. We’re better prepared then we were then, we’ll fare better. So again my friends, don’t panic and you’ll have happier days, even during a pandemic. ~ Rev Kane