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While the world is facing a new virus, there is appearing in North America two vastly different mindsets. On one side are the individuals who refuse to believe that it is anything worse than a regular flu and on the other are the folks who are buying stores out of hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Somewhere in the middle are those trying to make sense of it all. The purchasing of copious amounts of toilet paper makes no sense in the battle against COVID-19 as it is purely a respiratory virus. It does not involve the gastrointestinal tract, period. Yet store shelves in cities across the continent are empty of toilet paper and this trend has now spread to smaller centres including Wakaw. While the virus and its implications can be scary because there are still so many unknowns, unfortunately it has brought out the “me against you” mentality which is seen through the massive buying individuals are engaging in.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses in which some cause illness in people and others cause illness in animals. Human coronaviruses are typically associated with mild illnesses, similar but not the same as the common cold. COVID-19 is a new disease that before December 2019, had not been identified in humans. Patients at the epicentre of the outbreak in Wuhan, China all had links to a large seafood and live animal market and so scientists believe that an animal coronavirus crossed to humans and then began to spread from human to human. Previously two other animal specific coronaviruses have spread from animals to humans and went on to cause severe illness in humans; severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) which impacted Canada in 2003, and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

As of March 13th, Ontario has 101 confirmed cases, British Columbia has 73, Alberta has 39, and Quebec 21. Four cases are confirmed in Manitoba and two in Saskatchewan. Of these cases 50% are female, 29% are individuals 60 years and older, 12% have been hospitalized and 1 person has died in Canada. According to the Update page on the Government of Canada website {Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Outbreak update}, at this time, the risk to the general population in Canada is low. There is an increased risk of more severe health outcomes for Canadians who are 65 years of age and older, have compromised immune systems, and those who have other medical conditions.

Symptoms of COVID-19 may take up to 14 days to appear after an individual has been exposed to the virus and as a result, Canadians who have travelled outside of Canada are recommended to self-isolate for 14 days upon return to ensure they have not contracted the virus. Those who are infected may have little or no symptoms and the symptoms may be hard to distinguish from those of a regular cold or flu. While experts believe that it may be possible to transmit the virus to others even while not showing any symptoms, this has not been proven one way or the other but would be considered rare. Symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia in both lungs.

The best advice is firstly to stay calm and DO NOT believe everything you read on Facebook and other social media. Practice the same safe procedures that medical professionals recommend during flu and cold season. First and foremost, stay home if you are sick. Encourage others to stay at home as well, if they are sick until they no longer have symptoms. Get plenty of rest and stay hydrated. The human body has many virus fighting techniques up its sleeve, so to speak, and by staying hydrated and well rested, the body is at its optimum virus fighting capacity. Since respiratory viruses, such as COVID-19, are spread through contact, change how greetings are made, instead of a handshake, kiss, or hug, a wave or elbow bump is less likely to expose you to the virus. Wash your hands and cough or sneeze into your elbow. Disinfect frequently touched objects like toys, light switches, countertops, tv remotes, and door handles regularly. Single individuals should set up a buddy system where each person agrees to check on the other and if one becomes sick, the other will run necessary errands to ensure the one who is sick can remain at home. 

To prepare for an eventuality of having to self-isolate people can do a number of things that does not include hoarding toilet paper. 

· Plan ahead. Think of what you and your family would need to have at home to be able to stay isolated for 14 days; medication, non-perishable groceries, etc

· Think about and plan how you could get food and supplies, enlist the aid of others.

· Think about things you could do during time at home. People in Wuhan, China have been in this situation, in some cases, for twelve weeks already, and keep busy cooking, reading, learning online, and playing games.

· Think about things you could do that would still keep you isolated physically but not intellectually.

Should you start to feel unwell. Stay at home, do not go to an emergency room or walk-in clinic. Call Healthline at 811. Healthline coordinators have increased the number of phonelines and professionals on duty to help individuals determine what steps they need to take. Follow the recommendations given. If you continue to feel progressively worse contact Healthline again! Here are a number of guidelines to follow in the event you contract COVID-19:

Limit contact with others

Supplies to have at home when isolating

Care for yourself

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder

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