Regarding COVID-19, the old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is worth incorporating into everyday activities.
"The danger of this illness is not the mortality rate," said Col. Michael Cohen, Eighth Army's command surgeon. "The real danger is overwhelming our ability to treat a large number of patients with the illness. Organizations and individuals have to do everything they can to prevent the illness from gaining a foothold."
Here are steps to take to reduce your chance of becoming infected, and protect those around you:
The most effective measure is to regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you do not have access to this, use a 60 percent-alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
• When washing or sanitizing your hands, sing the "Happy Birthday" song to make sure you wash long enough.
• Work from your wrist towards your fingertips so you are not pushing the virus up your arm. Pay special attention to your thumbs, wrists, and in between fingers. Proper hand washing reduces your chance of catching COVID-19 by 50 percent, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control.
Clean your home and work areas frequently.
• Why? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies viruses into three categories based on how easy they are to kill. The good news is COVID-19 is classified as an enveloped virus, the easiest to kill of the three types of viruses.
• The CDC recommends using cleaning products labeled effective against coronaviruses or a bleach-water solution (one cup of bleach for every gallon of water).
• Pay special attention to surfaces such as desks, counters, table tops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards and bedside tables.
• Clean floors, starting from the exit towards the interior.
• Wash and dry laundry using the warmest temperatures recommended on the label.
Maintain at least 6 feet between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
• Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the COVID-19 virus if the person is infected.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick
• Become more aware of public hygiene and what you touch. Don't touch things others have and then touch your face. You don't have to walk in fear, just spend a little more time thinking about what you are doing and how you can protect yourself.
• Be proactive in reminding others around you if you see them touching their face.
• Masks don't just filter the air you breathe in, or contain your cough or sneeze… it also keeps you from inadvertently touching your mouth and nose.
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means wearing a mask in public or the workspace, or covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
• Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
• If you have to cough or sneeze, do so into your mask if you are wearing one. Do not pull it down and then replace it afterwards.
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
• Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
• For all COVID-19 related medical concerns call the USFK COVID-19 Hotline at 050-3337-2556 or (DSN) 737-2556, before heading to the hospital or clinic.
• The reason is mainly twofold. One, this prevents potential spread to vulnerable patients at the medical centers and contamination of the facility, and two, in order not to overwhelm the medical system with unnecessary visits.
Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your command on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
• Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html
• USFK COVID-19 Information https://www.usfk.mil/Media/News/Article/2070556/usfk-covid-19-information/
If you discover you have recently visited (past 14 days) areas, offices or businesses with confirmed COVID-19 exposure, in addition to the guidance above, you should:
Remain calm and respond accordingly.
• Why? More than 80 percent of cases have only had mild symptoms and medical response helps stop the spread of the disease.
• COVID-19 is less deadly than other coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
• Your actions are the most important factor in containing the virus.
Immediately contact your chain of command.
• Why? It is critical to begin back-tracing potential exposure risks and ensure proper containment measures are initiated.
• Your command will direct you to the correct treatment or test facility.
Stay at home until directed what your next step is, even if you are not showing symptoms.
• Why? You can have COVID-19, show no symptoms and be contagious. Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from spreading COVID-19.
If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, notify your chain of command call the USFK hotline promptly.
• Why? Calling in advance will allow health care providers to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.
• Begin compiling a list, beginning 14 days prior, of where you have been and who you have come in contact with.
"Everyone has a part to play in the global effort to stop this illness in its tracks," said Cohen. "It does not matter what your occupation is, your actions ensure the wellbeing of our ROK-US communities."
If you feel you have been exposed and are showing symptoms please call the USFK hotline at (DSN) 755-2765 or 050-3355-2765.
Note: This is part two of a multi-part series on COVID-19 and its impact on Eighth Army and U.S. Forces Korea