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US health officials warn these are the essential 'dos and don'ts' regarding the coronavirus

Do wash your hands, do not panic

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Image

With authorities confirming that the coronavirus, also known as the COVID-19 illness, had already claimed one life in the United States, health officials are warning the country to prepare in the event it continues spreading.

According to WebMD, these are the steps the essential "dos and don'ts" when preparing for the coronavirus.

Wash your hands

  • DO: People should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, several times a day. This includes before eating, cooking, and after using the bathroom. Health officials recommend using soap and water or a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • DO NOT: If you believe you have come in contact with the virus, immediately wash your hands. Do not touch your eyes, face or mouth.

Learn the symptoms, do not wear a mask

  • DO: Health officials are urging Americans to learn the symptoms of the coronavirus, which are similar to those of the flu. These include fever and shortness of breath.
  • DO NOT: Contrary to what you may have heard, health officials are recommending Americans to avoid wearing masks unless they are sick. "Masks help protect others from catching the virus, but wearing one when you're healthy won't do much." Demand for N95 masks have boomed since the start of the outbreak, causing shortages, which is why WebMD recommends leaving the masks "for people who really need them, like the sick or health care professionals."

Avoid public places if you are over 60 or have a condition

  • DO: WebMD is warning people over 60 or with health conditions to avoid public places. "Note," they write, "the highest-risk groups appear to be seniors and people with preexisting conditions like heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes."
  • DO NOT: If you have a fever or flu-like symptoms, avoid traveling. If you have to take a flight, inform a flight attendant and contact a health professional when you get home.

Rethink your travel plans and have supplies ready

  • DO: If your travel plans include affected countries, you may want to reconsider your itinerary. "Currently, the CDC advises against all nonessential travel to China and South Korea," says WebMD. The agency also recommends adults over 60 or who have certain health conditions to consider "postponing nonessential travel to Italy, Japan, and Iran." You can find the latest advisories here. Health officials are also recommending people to have supplies at home in case they feel sick and need to be quarantined. This would include prescription medicines, disinfectants, and a 2-week supply of food and water.
  • DO NOT: There are only a few dozen cases of coronavirus in the United States, so authorities are urging Americans not to panic.

What if you already feel sick?

  • DO: If you suspect you may have the coronavirus and are experiencing a fever, cough, and a hard time breathing, contact your doctor.
  • DO NOT: However, health officials recommend not to just go to your nearest urgent care clinic. Instead, call your doctor first to find out what protocols to follow and ensure you do not spread the disease to others.

Do not reach for antibiotics

  • DO: If you suspect you might be sick, then do wear a mask.
  • DO NOT: That said, WebMD recommends not reaching for old antibiotics you may have lying around your house: "antibiotics work only on illnesses caused by bacteria, and the coronavirus is -- you guessed it -- a virus."
To read the full WebMD article, click here.

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