Stopping the Spread of a Virus Starts with You

Stopping the Spread of a Virus Starts with You

Stopping the Spread of a Virus Starts with You

SARS, Zika, Ebola, COVID-19. It can be scary when we hear reports that thousands are getting sick as a virus spreads. 

virus spreads quickly if it is an airborne virus like the COVID-19, which means it spreads when people who are sick with the virus don’t cover their face when they are around others. The virus can be suspended in the air long enough to reach others, even if they aren’t standing close. Sometimes it can also be spread when the virus is on an infected person’s hands or something they have touched. 

Once a vaccine is made, an epidemic can be controlled. For example, the flu killed millions in the early 1900s before a vaccine was produced. Now it is easily controlled if people get the flu shot once a year and stay out of public places when they are sick. The U.S. and other parts of the world are seeing a decline in new and severe cases of COVID-19 as more and more people get the vaccine. 

How Do You Prevent Getting It? 

The best thing you can do to keep from getting COVID-19 is the same as what you would do to avoid any other airborne virus. 

The CDC leaving site icon and other experts have websites with advice on preventing the spread of airborne viruses: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When you don’t have soap and water handy, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It is a good plan to keep some at work and school. 
  • When you cough, cover both your mouth and nose with a tissue or your shirt. Teach kids to cough into their elbow, where you bend your arm in front of your face and cough into the crook of your elbow. A good way to get them to remember is to use the phrase “Cough and sneeze? Elbow Please.” For small kids, you can have them use both arms. It makes it fun for them to pretend they have crocodile jaws” and has a better chance of making sure they cover both their mouth and nose. 
  • When you use a tissue, throw it in the trash. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. 
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 
  • Stay home when you are sick. 
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched a lot, like toys, door handles, faucets and TV remotes. 
  • Don’t share drinks or eating utensils.

While COVID-19 is getting a lot of media attention, flu is still a big worry in the U.S. It spreads quickly, in part because many people don’t get the flu shot each year. 

The flu shot is covered by your health insurance as preventive care*. That means you won’t pay anything when you get your shot. Your health plan covers all the cost. Many pharmacies give flu shots, as do most doctor’s offices.  

Sources: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), leaving site icon World Health Organization, 2023; How to Protect Yourself and Others, leaving site icon CDC, 2023 
*Preventive services at no cost applies only to members enrolled in non-grandfathered health plans. You may have to pay all or part of the cost of preventive care if your health plan is grandfathered. 

Originally published 2/19/2020; Revised 2022, 2023