Reducing Your Risk of Infection

In the midst of influenza season, and with the novel Coronavirus COVID-19 spreading in US communities, many of you have asked what measures you can take to minimize your risk.  This list incorporates those measures recommended by the CDC for your protection:

  1. If you are coughing/sneezing, limit risk to others by wearing a mask if likely to be within 6 feet of another person. The CDC has determined that maintaining social distance when sick is an effective way to limit spread of illnesses.  This could include:
  2. If you are sick – Stay Home! This will limit community spread of many illnesses. The CDC recommends you stay home for at least 24 hrs after the fever is gone, except to get medical care or other necessities.  The fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medication.
    1. Sleep/occupy a separate room in your house if possible
    2. Stay separate from other people/animals in your house
    3. Send others out to run errands, shop for groceries
    4. Whether sick or not, maintain a 6 foot distance between you and others
  3. Cover mouth and nose with tissue when coughing or sneezing, then discard tissue.
  4. Wash your hands often with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. Alternately use an alcohol based hand scrub/sanitizer.  Do this even if not sick, as you will decrease the risk of catching infection.
  5. Avoid touching other people. Avoid shaking hands, unless you know the person is not sick.
  6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – unless you just washed your hands. Then wash hands again after touching.
  7. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that might become contaminated. If possible, use sani-wipes when in public facilities or to wipe down objects frequently touched by others, such as fuel pump handles, etc. before you touch them, or wear disposable gloves.

People at highest risk for serious complication from respiratory infections, including influenza and COVID-19, are the elderly and those who have compromised immune systems.  This includes many patients seen in a Rheumatology clinic, both because of their underlying disease as well as medications that may be required to control their disease.  This will continue to be a challenge, and by taking aggressive personal measures you will reduce your risk as much as possible.  As always – if you are on immune suppressive medications, these should be stopped if you have fever due to infection, or any symptoms of infection, and you should notify your Rheumatologist and Primary Care Provider.

San Antonio Arthritis Care Centers

Author
Kenneth DesRosier, MD

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