The Coronavirus Outbreak Reemphasizes the Importance of Routine Preparedness Efforts

January 31st, 2020 | Viewpoint


January 31, 2020 – People’s daily work in health care facilities, health departments, and communities is a critical first line of defense as the world faces another pandemic threat in the form of a novel coronavirus.

In this instance, as in all instances involving an infectious pathogen, health care facilities connect with jurisdictional health departments to implement measures to assess risk (e.g., through health and travel history), and to protect staff, patients, and visitors from exposure (e.g., by using standard precautions or isolating a person who has suspected or confirmed illness). The public health infrastructure in the United States, from the federal to the local level, is helping health care organizations and communities understand and control the threat by conducting disease surveillance and providing updates on the situation.

Public health involves promoting and implementing evidence-based actions to protect people and prevent the spread of disease. Sometimes it takes an outbreak to reveal the often invisible public health preparedness measures that are taken every day. But it is this routine preparedness work that mitigates the harm of all infectious diseases—from influenza to Ebola to the coronavirus—for all of us.

Outbreaks also increase concern in communities. At such times, it is important to remember the most important steps we can take to protect ourselves, coworkers, friends, and neighbors, advised by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our own local and state health departments:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick

This is the time, whatever our context, to rededicate ourselves to doing what we can personally to stay well and stop the spread of disease—whether its influenza (which has killed an estimated 8,200 people in the United States this season so far) or the novel coronavirus.

This is also the time to reaffirm our commitment to tried-and-true public health approaches and the science that backs them up and to ensure that our public health system has the resources it needs to continue to respond.

Written by Amy Cullum

Protect Yourself and Your Community. Help stop the spread of COVID-19: Clean your hands often. Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Keep 6 feet away from others when possible. If you feel sick, stay home when you can. Listen for orders from your local government to stay home. Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow. Learn more about COVID-19 and if you have further questions, the WHO is continuously monitoring and responding to this outbreak, visit their Q&A page updated regularly.

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