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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

The first death in the US from Corona Virus was confirmed by the Washington Dept. of Health, when a man in his 50s, with no travel history, succumbed to the infection; since then five more people have died, bringing the total number of coronavirus victims in the US to six. Kirkland WA, is now being called the epicenter of the coronavirus response as the outbreak worsens.

The Washington Post has reported that the outbreak has probably been spreading undetected in Washington state for over 6 weeks with hundreds of infections predicted throughout the state. According to a public health official, the outbreak is spreading through ‘community transmission’ in the Seattle area. Santa Clara County officials recently confirmed three new cases and New York state announced its first coronavirus case in a press conference.

The global death toll has exceeded 3000 as COVID-19 spreads in other countries, and the White House has announced a travel advisory for Italy, Iran and South Korea, in response to the likely global pandemic.

It’s only a matter of time before Americans “see community spread in this country,” warns the CDC, urging US businesses, hospitals, and communities to begin preparing for the advent of COVID19, as the window of opportunity to stop its spread is shrinking.

Common-Sense Precautions Against Viruses

Dr.James Robb, one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses, cautioned that current projections for the COVID19 expansion in the US are only probable due to continued insufficient worldwide data, but, it is most likely to be widespread in the US by mid to late March and April.  

He suggests common-sense precautions (listed below) which are currently in use during the influenza season and urges Americans to protect themselves by adding to their anti-virus arsenal by stocking up on masks, gloves and a few other items, in preparation for the pandemic spread to the US. 

  • NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, or elbow bump or simply a nod when greeting people.
  • Use ONLY your knuckles to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc..
  • Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at home AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands. Hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.

NOTE: This virus only infects your lungs because it is lung-specific and only has cell receptors for lung cells. This is the only way this virus can infect you.The corona virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you, BUT, all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average.

Everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected UNLESS your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. 

In a story reported by the New York Times, Thongsuk Thongrat, a Thai cab driver, caught the coronavirus from an infected  passenger who sneezed into his face.

So, the only way for the virus to infect you is by an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth, or through your nose or mouth via your hands.

Will Masks and Gloves Help?

We touch our nose and mouth at least 90 times a day without knowing it!  

The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth – it is only to keep YOU from touching your nose or mouth.

So, stock up on disposable, surgical masks and hand sanitizers, and use them to protect yourself when touching your nose and/or mouth. 

  • Use latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas.
  • Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.
  • If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious viruses that can be passed on for up to a week or more!
  • Stock up now with zinc lozenges. Studies show that these lozenges have proven to be effective in reducing the duration of the common cold (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx and could give you an extra boost of inhibitory prevention against the corona virus while traveling, but it’s important to consult with your physician first.

Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus, says Dr. Robb, . “BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available.”

James Robb, MD FCAP, was a professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego and one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses (the 1970s). He was the first to demonstrate the number of genes the virus contained. Since then, he has kept up with the coronavirus field and its multiple clinical transfers into the human population (e.g., SARS, MERS), from different animal sources. 

The information presented in this article is offered for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as personal medical advice. You should consult with your personal physician/care giver regarding your own medical care.

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents.

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Meera Kymal

Meera Kymal is the Managing Editor at India Currents and Founder/Producer at She produces multi-platform content on the South Asian diaspora through the lens of social justice,...