By Dr. Anthony Policastro

As we wait for the very likely Covid-19 epidemic to begin, there are some general guidelines that are worthwhile to discuss.

There has not been a widespread dispersion of the virus yet, therefore fears of leaving the house are unfounded. There will be a time to be cautious about that, however, that time is not here yet.

As I have written at the end of my column over the last few weeks, Covid-19 is like a bad flu epidemic. The mortality rate continues to be about 2% of those infected.

To this point, over 80% of the deaths have been in individuals over 60 years old. Of that group, 75% have been individuals with underlying illnesses such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes.

For most other individuals, being sick with Covid-19 will be like having a bad case of the flu. That means most people will need the basic care for flu – rest, hydration and symptomatic treatment like acetaminophen (Tylenol).

I recently wrote about a cough being a good thing for clearing out infected fluid. I did not discuss hydration as a way to help keep coughs productive. Even though you feel sick, taking in fluids is very important.

The key thing to recognize is the illness needs to be treated medically if the patient develops shortness of breath. It appears that once that symptom begins, it will worsen.

Some precautions should be taken to prevent yourself from getting the virus. The first is to get into the habit of hand washing. Viruses spread by getting on the hands of the individual first. Then the individual touches their nose or mouth and infects themselves.

I wrote an article on proper hand washing techniques in the past. I am going to republish it again next week.

Antiseptic wipes are helpful for rubbing down surfaces that might be infected. Of course, if you properly wash your hands after touching those surfaces that is a better way of doing things.

Masks have a place, however, all they can do is keep an already ill person from spreading the virus.

That, of course, is only true if the mask is worn properly. The mask must cover both the nose and the mouth and fit tightly.

Masks will not protect an unaffected patient because the real issue is getting the virus on their hands.

Individuals who get sick should try and treat themselves at home as long as they do not experience shortness of breath.

We do not have any antiviral medication, therefore going to see a physician does not accomplish much more than spreading the virus to others.

We can expect the virus to run through the population like the annual flu virus, however, it might linger longer than that.

The good news is if it does, we will likely have a vaccine by that time (12 to 15 months from now).

In the meantime, it is just a matter of doing the basics once the virus hits your area. That means learning how to wash your hands properly and often.