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Amid virus outbreak, health officials stress hand-washing, usual seasonal hygiene steps

If you’ve been to the grocery store only to find the shelves bare of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and face masks, don’t panic.

You probably already have what you need to protect your family against the novel coronavirus outbreak that has killed six people in Washington.

The first line of defense is frequent hand-washing with soap and water. And, you can effectively clean and disinfect surfaces with any number of products listed by the American Chemistry Council as effective against COVID-19 (including diluted bleach) that you likely already have in your housecleaning supplies.

As for face masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t recommend them for people who are well. They’re for health care workers or those who have symptoms of the disease.

People should continue taking the same hygiene steps Clark County Public Health recommends every cold and flu season, department spokeswoman Marissa Armstrong said in an email.

• Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. (Hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol is only recommended when soap and water aren’t available.)

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

• Cover coughs and sneezes. Use a tissue, then throw it in the trash and wash your hands.

• Stay home and away from others when sick.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched.

“These are the best things people can do to protect themselves — and others — from getting ill,” Armstrong said. “We are not to the point yet where we’re recommending that people who are well stay home, but it doesn’t hurt to think about how those recommendations could impact your household.”

Clark County Public Health suggests coming up with a plan for your children in the event that schools or child care centers close, and checking with your employer about sick leave and telecommuting options. And just in case, check with your health care provider about keeping an emergency supply of prescribed medications at home.

The Washington Department of Health discourages people who feel sick from attending large events, and maybe even avoiding them if you’re well.

If you have questions about the coronavirus, how it spreads and what to do if you have symptoms, you can call the state health department’s hotline at 1-800-525-0127.


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