Coronavirus – There’s a lot of misinformation out there!
Swine Flu, H1N1, Bird Flu, SARS, Ebola and now Coronavirus. It seems that every year, everybody gets into a tizzy about a new potential “pandemic.” I don’t advocate getting into a panic, but we all must take prudent precautions, which don’t just apply to Coronavirus, but keep us safe from any potential epidemics and pandemics. Believe me, this will not be the last one.
The difference between an “epidemic” and a “pandemic” is geography. An epidemic is in a confined area, such as Ebola presently. A pandemic impacts a larger geographic area, such as HIV/AIDS which affects people worldwide. The worst pandemic in modern history was the 1918 “Spanish Flu” pandemic which is believed to have killed 20-50 million people worldwide. Many scientists (and people like me who worry about this stuff) believe that we are overdue for another large-scale worldwide pandemic at some point. Because we are all human beings susceptible to disease, and since Mother Nature likely is smarter and faster than us, it is prudent to be generally prepared and to have practices that keep you and your family safe.
A quick true story. A few weeks ago when I got home from the city (and I take public transportation) my wife told me to wash my hands because she didn’t want to get the coronavirus (which apparently she believes lurks on my bus). While her concern about the coronavirus was a bit exaggerated at the time, she was absolutely correct. I should always wash my hands when I get home from taking public transportation – it’s not just coronavirus, it is regular seasonal flu, colds, and any other things that I could bring home.
So what do we need to be doing?
First of all, make sure you and your family have an adequate level of emergency preparedness for all disasters. If you need some good home checklists, use these:
- Souhegan CERT Emergency Preparedness Checklist
- EPA Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water
- FEMA Emergency Supply List
Next, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed. Here are some tips – and you should make sure everybody in your household practices these:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Should an epidemic (or pandemic) break out, social distancing is important. (I’ll stop taking the bus!)
“Continuity of Operations” is critical
Every business – large and small – should have a Business Continuity Plan. This is critical to the national security of the U.S. (Huh? What is this dude talking about?) Glad you asked. Here’s the deal. The United States has 16 Critical Infrastructure sectors. The Department of Homeland Security defines these as:
Sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.
So what does a grocery store, a nuclear power plant and a bank have in common? They are all part of the critical infrastructures of the U.S. The majority of our critical infrastructure sectors consist of private sector businesses. So next time you see the young “Millennial” stocking shelves at your local Piggly Wiggly, be sure to thank him or her for their contribution to our critical infrastructures!
This is why business continuity is so critical – in a pandemic or any other disaster, how will you keep your business going? How will you keep your employees and customers safe? If enough of our businesses go down, we all go down with them.
There is no need to panic over coronavirus – instead, prepare!
Finally, don’t panic. There is a lot of misinformation out there right now (and a bit of hysteria). Below is the most authoritative information:
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- The World Health Organization (WHO): Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- WHO: Free on-demand course: Introduction to nCoV and emerging respiratory viruses
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): 2019 Novel Coronavirus
- Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard
And for home preparedness for a pandemic, here are some really good tips:
So, don’t panic but be prepared for all hazards that could impact your work and your family.