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How Worried Should I Be About The Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

At first, many saw COVID-19 as an exotic illness, specific to an outdoor meat market in Wuhan, China, where it originated. Then, it was a mild, infectious disease that affected only the elderly and sick–nothing more than the flu. But then, thousands started dying. 


The public opinion on the novel coronavirus (officially known as COVID-19) has evolved drastically over the last month or two. No one expected it to reach beyond mainland China, make its way to the West, and endanger the health of the public–putting millions of elderly and immunocompromised people at risk. It’s clear that this is no mild flu or head cold. 

But it does not warrant panic. There’s no reason to stock up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer. This will not be an apocalypse. Around 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild or asymptomatic, and most recover without complications. If all goes well, things will be back to normal in a few months, provided global leaders take the actions recommended by the WHO. The general sentiment is: Take this seriously, but don’t panic.

No matter if you’re concerned or not, you should take the health precautions recommended by the WHO very seriously. If you’re young and healthy, you might not think you need to take any precautions at all. After all, your immune system is strong and in top shape. But there are others who may not be as healthy as you. Currently, at-risk people include the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Take the below measures to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting COVID-19.

Steps to take to prevent getting COVID-19


  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, covering all surfaces of your hands (backs, too) for about 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer if soap isn’t available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Discard the tissue afterwards and wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • If you feel sick, even if you think it’s not COVID-19, stay at home.
  • Clean surfaces and objects that have been touched by other people.
  • Stay away from others. You don’t have to stay completely inside; you can sit outside or take a walk if the weather is nice. Just avoid other people or stay at least 3 feet away from them. 
  • Quarantine yourself. This is not necessary for the majority of people, but if you fall into an at-risk category, you may want to completely quarantine yourself.
  • Avoid public transportation if possible. That includes taxis and ride-sharing services.
  • Avoid public settings or areas with a lot of people in general.

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