ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Sometimes it can be challenging to remain vigilant in following all of the recommended public health guidance for reducing the risk of catching or transmitting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease, also known as COVID-19. Army Public Health Center experts continue to emphasize the importance of listening to experts and not sharing or promoting unproven treatments or rumors on how the virus spreads and to encourage adherence to all COVID-19 health and safety recommendations. For example, very few people enjoy wearing face masks. Still, public health experts encourage universal mask-wearing as an essential tool in fighting against COVID-19 that can reduce the disease’s spread.“Cloth face coverings or masks are a necessary barrier to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets into the immediate environment when the wearer coughs, sneezes, raises their voice, or talks,” said Dr. Raúl Mirza, APHC Clinical Public Health and Epidemiology acting director. “The scientific evidence makes it clear that people may be contagious with the SARS-CoV-2 virus days before they develop symptoms and test positive for COVID-19.”Personnel are discouraged from wearing masks with exhalation valves or vents to help prevent the wearer from potentially spreading COVID-19 to others.The Wall Street Journal looked at the common consensus among scientists and reported that the major culprit for spreading Coronavirus is not fleeting encounters with people outdoors or contaminated surfaces; instead, it is close-up, person-to-person interactions for extended periods.“The virus spreads from person-to-person, particularly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet),” said Mirza. “Infected persons transmit the virus through respiratory droplets produced while coughing, sneezing, or talking.”Mirza said it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes after touching a surface or object contaminated with SARS-CoV-2. However, this is not the primary way the virus spreads.People who enjoy and practice intense cardio activities such as running, may not tolerate wearing a mask if it causes them difficulty breathing, said Mirza. People should consider conducting high-intensity activities outdoors or in areas with adequate air exchange and ventilation, and as always, they should maximize their physical distance from others.“To practice good physical distancing, people should stay at least 6 feet apart from one another in indoor and outdoor spaces,” said Mirza.Some people have expressed concern that wearing a mask can cause CO2 intoxication or oxygen deficiency. Mirza said there is no scientific evidence to support any danger with prolonged mask use.“Carbon dioxide can flow freely through cloth face coverings and masks specifically used by healthcare professionals such as N95 filtering face-piece respirators,” said Mirza.According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, masks should not be worn by children younger than two years old, anyone who has trouble breathing, and anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. Information about the proper selection of a face mask is located on APHC’s COVID-19 campaign website.Although there have been some recent reports of Chinese food inspectors detecting Coronavirus on meat being shipped from Brazil, Mirza says this is not a likely source for virus transmission.“There is no current evidence that people can catch COVID-19 from food, including fruits and vegetables or after touching food containers and food packaging,” said Mirza.Mirza recommends people continue to follow general food safety guidelines such as thoroughly washing hands with plenty of soap and water for at least 20 seconds after handling takeout containers and grocery store packaging, and before eating.“Always wash fruits and vegetables before consuming them and transfer take-out or delivered food to a clean dish using clean utensils before eating,” said Mirza. “Maintain clean and disinfected surfaces in your home or office for any area that comes into contact with food.”Mirza explained researchers are still learning more about how the virus spreads, but there is no scientific evidence of spread from insects like mosquitos or house flies and a low risk of spread from animals to people.“Based on current information, the risk of people contracting COVID-19 from animals is considered low,” said Mirza. “However, SARS-CoV-2 can spread from people to animals based on case reports collected by the CDC. The reports indicate that pets, such as dogs and cats, have become infected by SARS-CoV-2 after close contact with people with COVID-19.”The U.S. government is currently working on the rapid development of a COVID-19 vaccine through its Operation Warp Speed program, but at this time, there are no effective or safe vaccines or treatments to convey immunity and prevent or lessen disease if exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, said Mirza.Mirza recommends reviewing the Mayo Clinic’s web page debunking many COVID-19 prevention and treatment myths at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-myths/art-20485720.Here are a few simple steps recommended by APHC and the CDC that everyone should follow to avoid exposure and prevent the risk of contracting COVID-19:• Maintain physical distance (about 6 feet) from others.• Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 to 80 percent alcohol. Do not use methanol-containing hand sanitizers.• Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.• Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others, particularly when a distance of six feet or greater cannot be maintained.• Promptly report concerns to your healthcare provider if you believe you might be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Do not report to work, gather socially, or enter public places if you are concerned you may have symptoms. COVID-19 has a wide range of symptoms that include fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle and body aches, headache, loss of taste and smell, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.• Make a personal and family plan should you be required to quarantine or isolate.Finally, with the approach of fall, Mirza recommends people get their annual influenza vaccination and consult their healthcare provider to determine if they need a pneumococcal vaccine. As always, people should consult their healthcare provider to determine what vaccines are needed to protect their health and prevent disease.The APHC regularly updates its COVID-19 web page with health information.The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals, and workplaces by preventing disease, injury, and disability of Soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys, and technical consultations.Related LinksU.S. Army Guidance: CoronavirusArmy.mil: Worldwide News