This article was originally published on March 13, 2020. It was updated on April 4, 2020, to reflect new information about this rapidly evolving situation.
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It seems like the entire world is talking about coronavirus (COVID-19). The internet is a blaze with articles and information, your mom is (still) frantically texting you and it’s all your co-workers are talking about in your new virtual meetings.
The uncertainty about a potentially life-threatening virus has created a buzz of public anxiety. So if you find yourself starting to get worked up and overwhelmed at the thought of COVID-19, you’re not alone.
“For everything that we don’t know about COVID-19, there’s a lot that we do know,” says infectious disease specialist Susan Rehm, MD. “Coronaviruses are a special class of cold viruses – and the good news here is that we know how to manage people with respiratory viruses.”
Dr. Rehm says that when it comes to easing fear and anxiety around COVID-19, take these two things into consideration:
“Healthcare providers and hospitals are working hard to respond to the spread of COVID-19,” says Dr. Rehm. “It’s important to understand that managing viral respiratory illnesses is not new in the medical community. We continuously prepare for outbreaks like this. Guidelines are in place and they’re updated as new information becomes available.”
And when it comes to yourself – you should know what to do to avoid getting sick because it’s the same as protecting yourself against influenza and lots of other infections. Wash your hands, use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose, don’t touch your face, avoid those who are sick, avoid crowds and stay home if you’re not feeling well.
The CDC also now recommends wearing a cloth face mask in public, especially in places where it’s hard to maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and another person. Cloth face masks are being recommended because we now know individuals with COVID-19 could have mild or no symptoms, while still spreading the virus to others. The cloth face coverings recommended by the CDC are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators, which should be reserved for healthcare workers and first responders.
While this virus is unpredictable and the situation continues to evolve, focus on what you can control, says Dr. Rehm.
It’s only human to go through a range of emotions as we learn more about COVID-19.
You might experience:
Dr. Rehm urges caution, but within reason, regarding COVID-19. She offers a few tips to help you get a handle on the situation:
If you find that you just cannot seem to get a grip on your worry, seek help from a mental health specialist. They can help you identify triggers and give you tools to practice when you find your worry taking over.