Don’t panic. From flu to COVID-19, these key steps can limit your risk of most infections
Experts repeat it over and over. The first line of defense is washing your hands. During an epidemic, you can’t be too clean.
Article includes Power Words
asthma: A disease affecting the body’s airways, which are the tubes through which animals breathe. Asthma obstructs these airways through swelling, the production of too much mucus or a tightening of the tubes. As a result, the body can expand to breathe in air, but loses the ability to exhale appropriately. The most common cause of asthma is an allergy. Asthma is a leading cause of hospitalization and the top chronic disease responsible for kids missing school.
coronavirus: A family of viruses named for the crown-like spikes on their surface (corona means “crown” in Latin). Coronaviruses cause the common cold. The family also includes viruses that cause far more serious infections, including SARS.
COVID-19: A name given the coronavirus that caused a massive outbreak of potentially lethal disease, which began in December 2019. Symptoms included pneumonia, fever, headaches and trouble breathing.
diabetes: A disease where the body either makes too little of the hormone insulin (known as type 1 disease) or ignores the presence of too much insulin when it is present (known as type 2 diabetes).
epidemic: A widespread outbreak of an infectious disease that sickens many people (or other organisms) in a community at the same time. The term also may be applied to non-infectious diseases or conditions that have spread in a similar way.
flu: Short for influenza. It is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory passages causing fever and severe aching. It often occurs as an epidemic.
germ: Any one-celled microorganism, such as a bacterium or fungal species, or a virus particle. Some germs cause disease. Others can promote the health of more complex organisms, including birds and mammals. The health effects of most germs, however, remain unknown.
hygiene: Behaviors and practices that help to maintain health.
immune system: The collection of cells and their responses that help the body fight off infections and deal with foreign substances that may provoke allergies.
infection: A disease that can spread from one organism to another. It’s usually caused by some type of germ.
infectious: An adjective that describes a type of germ that can be transmitted to people, animals or other living things.
MERS: Short for Middle East respiratory syndrome. Caused by a coronavirus, this extremely infectious disease can produce fever, cough and shortness of breath. About 3 or 4 in every 10 infected patients may die. The first known outbreak occurred in 2012, when it killed some 800 people. Camels (the one-humped type) may have first introduced the disease to people.
outbreak: The sudden emergence of disease in a population of people or animals. The term may also be applied to the sudden emergence of devastating natural phenomena, such as earthquakes or tornadoes.
residue: A remnant or material that is left behind after something has been removed. For instance, residues of paint may remain behind after someone attempts to sand a piece of wood; or sticky residues of adhesive tape may remain on the skin after a bandage is removed; or residues of chemicals may remain in the blood after exposure to a pollutant.
risk: The chance or mathematical likelihood that some bad thing might happen. For instance, exposure to radiation poses a risk of cancer. Or the hazard — or peril — itself. (For instance: Among cancer risks that the people faced were radiation and drinking water tainted with arsenic.)
sanitizer: Some product that can removing substances, usually germs, that can spread disease.
World Health Organization: An agency of the United Nations, established in 1948, to promote health and to control communicable diseases. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland. The United Nations relies on the WHO for providing international leadership on global health matters. This organization also helps shape the research agenda for health issues and sets standards for pollutants and other things that could pose a risk to health. WHO also regularly reviews data to set policies for maintaining health and a healthy environment.
Zika: A viral disease that can be transmitted to humans via mosquitoes. About 20 percent of infected people get sick. Symptoms include a slight fever, rash and pinkeye and usually fade quickly. A growing body of evidence suggests that the virus could also cause a devastating birth defect — microcephaly. Evidence suggests it may also cause neurological conditions such as Guillain-Barré syndrome.