Quarantine, isolation, and social distancing, along with coronavirus itself, are topics at the top of everyone’s mind at the moment. We are all being told that these practices, especially social distance, are of the utmost importance right now, but how do we actually put this into practice? What does this mean for our daily lives? In our effort to keep our patients informed, we want to take some time to explain the importance of distancing, quarantine, and isolation, and what you can do to slow down community spread.
How Coronavirus is Spread
First and foremost, we need to understand how coronavirus is spread. Unfortunately, in affected areas, this virus has been spreading easily and continuously, making it particularly prone to community spread. This is why social distancing and quarantine are so important, especially if you have been exposed to the virus or are showing symptoms.
Coronavirus is believed to mainly be spread from person-to-person. This happens when someone is within close proximity (less than 6 feet) of someone with the virus, or if they are exposed to respiratory droplets created when the infected person coughs or sneezes. Once formed, these droplets can easily be inhaled into the lungs or land in the mouths or noses of people nearby.
It is also believed that people are most contagious when they are showing symptoms, although it may be possible that people can spread the virus before they begin showing symptoms. This is why it’s important to be aware of symptoms, even if they are mild. Coming into contact with objects that have been contaminated by the virus is another possible way for coronavirus to be spread, but this is not considered to be the main source of spread. Spread is most likely to happen through direct, face-to-face contact with someone that is ill.
Of course, in order to monitor yourself for symptoms of the virus, it’s important to know what you need to be looking for.
Symptoms of Coronavirus
Even if your symptoms are mild, or you don’tEven if your symptoms are mild, or you don’t believe that what you’re feeling is a symptom of coronavirus, it’s important to limit your interaction with the public as much as possible. We all need to be alert and monitor ourselves in order to keep ourselves and everyone around us safe. believe that what you’re feeling is a symptom of coronavirus, it’s important to limit your interaction with the public as much as possible. We all need to be alert and monitor ourselves in order to keep ourselves and everyone around us safe.
Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It is believed that these symptoms begin showing within 2-14 days of exposure, based on prior cases of coronavirus and the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses.
There are also more severe symptoms of coronavirus, considered emergency warning signs, and if you or anyone you know begin showing these symptoms, you will need to seek medical attention immediately. These emergency warning signs include the following:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or ability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
In order to make sure that both you and your community stay safe, it’s important to be alert to how you’re feeling and to take any signs of sickness seriously.
Because even sources like the CDC do not have a clear or comprehensive guide of what to do when practicing social distancing, it’s understandable that there is confusion on the subject. Fortunately, public health experts have weighed in on the topic.
Although you may be symptom-free and not part of a high-risk group, you should avoid gathering in public spaces. If you do venture out, though, you should try to make an effort to go out when you know that few people will be out, and when you are around others, you should try to maintain at least 6 feet between yourself and others. You should work from home if that is an option for you, but if you must be at work, drive yourself or use a ridesharing service if possible. If public transportation is your only option, maintain distance between yourself and others, and practice proper respiratory etiquette and good hand hygiene.
It’s important to try to limit face-to-face interaction with relatives or anyone you know that is part of a high-risk group. The more time you spend around them, the greater the possibility of you spreading the virus to them becomes. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for virtual interaction that will be useful for staying in touch without putting them at risk.
If you do contract symptoms and are advised to go into quarantine, you should not leave your home or go into crowded public spaces until you are told you can leave quarantine. Carolyn Cannuscio, director of research at the Center for Public Health Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania states, “For people who live in areas that are not densely populated, walking around in their yard is probably safe. The idea is that they should not come into contact with any other people. They need to be strict about it. We are not going to defeat this and halt transmission if people loosely interpret what it means to self-quarantine or self-isolate.”
How to self-quarantine
Before discussing how to self-quarantine and self-isolate, it’s important to note the distinction between the two. According to the CDC, isolation “separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick,” while quarantine “separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.”
In the case that you need to quarantine, health officials are recommending that you remain in quarantine for a full 14 days, in order to avoid contributing to the spread of coronavirus. A study of people who had contracted coronavirus showed that 98% of people were showing symptoms by day 12 of contracting the virus. It is also important to notify your healthcare provider before you begin isolation or quarantine as they may be able to recommend tips on how to best protect yourself and your community, as well as warning signs that you should look out for that may indicate a need to see a doctor in person or go to a hospital.
If others live with you, it will be important to keep a distance from them for the duration of your quarantine. If possible, remain in a separate room and use a separate bathroom from others. Avoid sharing personal items and make sure they are thoroughly washed with soap and water after use. Clean and disinfect high touch areas on a daily basis as well, and remember to practice good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. You should also wear a face mask when around caregivers or healthcare providers. Keep a distance from your pets as well, and if possible, have someone else care for them in the meantime.
Coming Out of Isolation
If you are confirmed to have coronavirus, it is important to remain in isolation until you are instructed to leave. Leaving isolation before you are instructed will increase your risk of spreading the virus throughout your community. However, the decision to end isolation will have to be made on a case-by-case basis, as everyone will react differently to the virus, so make sure to maintain communication with your healthcare provider(s) and local health departments.
As Dr. Nancy Gin, medical director of quality and clinical analysis for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California said, “We need to respect this coronavirus, but not fear it.” The best thing we can all do at the moment is to take preventive steps and stay informed by following trustworthy sources, including the WHO, CDC, and FDA.