[Originally posted in February 2020]. Corona virus is a new flu-like virus. A number of challenges are associated with such new types of viruses:
- Like with any virus, antibiotics will not help.
- There are no vaccinations available for such new viruses as they appear.
- Especially people with weakened immune systems are at risk (elderly, children or people with health conditions). But anyone can become sick, and also a source of infection (even before any symptoms occur).
Simple measures can reduce your risk of contracting such viruses, and will help stem the spread. These tips are common practice even in the absence of a new virus: the common flu causes ~400,000 deaths each year (source).
- Frequently wash hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap (my extra tip: don’t shake hands with anyone)
- Cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing. Don’t sneeze in your hands.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough
- Seek early medical help if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share travel history with healthcare providers
- Avoid direct, unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals when visiting live markets in affected areas
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products and exercise care when handling raw meat, milk or animal organs to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods. My extra tip: revisit your shopping, cooking, and eating habits – these viruses stem from animals like pigs and poultry. E.g. Corona virus originated from a fish market.
- Lead a healthy life. Eat vitamin rich foods, don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke, get sufficient sleep, and spend time outdoors.
- keep surfaces clean (use alcohol, bleach or soap). Viruses may survive on surfaces for days, so cleaning will help to protect you. Also regularly open the windows to replace the air.
Part of this information originates from this article in the Guardian.
It is advisable to stay up to date on the epidemic: how is your area affected, what do your local health authorities communicate? Best is to select a reliable, down to earth news channel – not a gossipy scaremonger: panic and half truths don’t help. Official government sites are good sources, most good media will use that information. Regularly check the Corona site from the World Health Organization, which explains in detail the best way to act and most up to date status www.who.int/COVID-19.Diseases such as the flu are seasonal, peaking (in the northern hemisphere) in February. The passing of time supports eradication and there is some chance this may be in our favor – although at this stage this is not completely confirmed for corona (SARS-CoV, Covid-19 or 2019-nCoV).
At this moment, the mid and long term economic impact of the epidemic is hard to determine. Listen to the CNBC interview with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. She cautioned against comparing this outbreak to the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s. Not only is COVID-19 different than SARS, but eg China and the world economy has changed (China only represented 8% of the world economy in the early 2000s and now makes up a 19% share). Corona may turn out to be very disruptive for investors, reflected in my advice here.
It makes sense to check whether you still have enough emergency supplies in your home – which you should do regularly anyway. After all, during an epidemic you may be forced to spend considerable time indoors. Here’s a list that I find useful. I try to add some variation in my emergency stocks; eating peanut butter three times a day for two weeks can get on your nerves. I have enough space, so I stock dozens of cans with food and sufficient water; enough to last us two weeks. Think about your pet as well.
A stock is created slowly over time. Stocking of food and panic buying are NOT the same. Panic buying ironically creates shortages and empty shelves. In any situation, panic is a poor advisor, so keep your cool. Consider the wellbeing of others.