We're living in trying times. The outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, which originated from a wet market in Wuhan, China, has now become a global pandemic. As of today, the number of infected cases stands at 182,700 people, while the death toll has risen to 7,173. Like the rest of the world, in India, the numbers are also steadily rising. Yesterday, 110 people were infected. Today, it is 124. Two people have already lost their lives, and if the situation isn't curbed before it becomes much worse, the toll is only set to rise.
At a time like this, medical experts are continually re-instating that social isolation or self-quarantine is the best way to contain the spread of the virus. Several countries have already enforced a complete lockdown and the results have shown that this method is successfully curbing the spread of the disease.
The Government of India, as of today, is yet to make any official announcement making it mandatory to self-quarantine. However, schools and colleges have been closed in several states, and many private companies have asked their employees to work from home. So if you're someone who has symptoms of the flu, have travel history to affected countries or have the option to self-isolate at this time, follow these government-sanctioned guidelines on how to quarantine yourself at home the right way.
First, let's start by understanding the meaning of the term 'quarantine'. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as 'a period of time during which an animal or person that might have a disease is kept away from other people or animals so that the disease cannot spread'. So when you self-quarantine, it protects you and your loved ones from contacting COVID-19, or if you are infected or have symptoms, it will protect your loved ones from getting the disease.
If you wake up with symptoms like a runny nose, dry cough, fever, sore throat or shortness of breath, you could potentially be infected by coronavirus. You should also follow these guidelines if you just returned from a high-risk country because the symptoms can take up to 14 days to occur. A typical period of self-quarantine is 14 days. Here are the steps you should follow:
1. If you're symptomatic or have an international travel history, the first and most important thing you need to do is report yourself to the government.
2. You should isolate yourself in a well-ventilated single-room, preferably with an attached toilet.
3. Stay away from elderly people, pregnant women, children and persons with pre-existing health conditions within the household.
4. Severely restrict your movement within the house.
5. Under NO circumstances should you attend any social/religious gathering e.g. weddings, funerals and parties.
6. Wash your hands as often and as thoroughly as you can with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
7. Avoid sharing household items e.g. dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, bedding, or other items with other people at home.
8. Wear a surgical mask at all times. The mask should be changed every 6-8 hours and disposed off. Disposable masks are NEVER to be reused.
9. Masks used by patients/caregivers/close contacts during self-quarantine should be disinfected using ordinary bleach solution (5%) or sodium hypochlorite solution (1%) and then disposed of either by burning or deep burial. Used masks should be considered as potentially infected.
10. If symptoms appear or get worse (cough/fever/difficulty in breathing), you need to immediately inform the nearest government health centre or call 011-23978046.
If you are the caregiver for someone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has been advised to self-quarantine owing to their travel history, there are some stringent rules you need to follow, else you stand the risk of getting infected yourself. Here are the things you need to keep in mind:
1. Only ONE assigned family member/caregiver should be tasked with taking care of the quarantined person. Multiple people should not be allowed to come in contact with the person.
2. Avoid shaking the soiled linen that can come in contact with the person--including clothes, bedsheets. Avoid any direct contact with the skin.
3. Use disposable gloves when cleaning the surfaces or handling soiled linen/other materials.
4. Wash your hands thoroughly after removing your gloves.
5. Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces in the quarantined person’s room (e.g.
bed frames, tables) daily with a 1% sodium hypochlorite solution.
6. Clean and disinfect toilet surfaces daily with regular household bleach solution/phenolic
7. Clean the clothes and other linen used by the person separately using common household
detergent and dry in the sun.
8. Visitors should not be allowed to visit this person at any cost.
9. In case the person being quarantined suddenly becomes symptomatic, all their close contacts (family members/friends/anyone who has been in contact with them) will need to be home quarantined (for 14 days), and followed up for an additional 14 days, or till the report of such case turns out negative on laboratory testing.
If you are working from home and self-isolating with your family members to keep yourself and your community safe, you are already playing a big role in containing the spread of COVID-19. However, you need to take certain precautions of Coronavirus even when you're isolating yourself. Follow these steps to self-quarantine the right way:
1. Limit the entry of visitors to your home, unless absolutely important. This can include domestic helpers, dog walkers, maintenance workers or even delivery persons.
2. Disinfect all common surfaces in the house on a regular basis like bedposts, tabletops, counters, door handles.
3. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water at regular intervals--even if you went downstairs to grab the newspaper you could carry germs into the house.
4. Step out of the house ONLY when necessary--to stock up on supplies or in case of emergencies.
5. Avoid any public places with large gatherings. Do not visit cafes or restaurants. Maintain a distance of at least one metre from people.
6. When you return home, change out of the clothes you were wearing outside and put them for wash immediately. Wash your hands with soap and water and take a bath if possible. Do not come into contact with other family members until you have disinfected yourself.
7. Avoid public transportation like busses, metros and shared cabs. Limit outdoor activity to places that are within walking distance. If you must use public transport, maintain a one-metre distance from people, avoid over-crowded trains/busses and completely disinfect yourself once you de-board.
8. Avoid common areas like the gym. Try working out at home instead by following youtube tutorials.
9. Avoid junk food. The coronavirus seriously affects people with low immunity. So stock up on healthy fruits and vegetables and cook at home with your loved ones.
10. If you suffer from a mental illness or are dealing with coronavirus-based anxiety, feel free to book a telephone/skype appointment with a licenced therapist.
Remember: prevention is better than cure. Social isolation is the best way to not only keep you safe, but also to ensure that infections are curbed within a community. Because even if you are healthy enough to survive the virus, you might pass it on to vulnerable people.
So stay home, stay safe, and spend time doing things that you love!
Featured Image: Shutterstock
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