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Stop virus creep at home

Published on Friday, October 1, 2021

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

A family member has a virus – COVID-19, influenza or another viral infection. Will the virus spread throughout your family until everyone is sick?

Not necessarily. While viruses do spread easily, there are steps caregivers can take to keep viruses including COVID-19 in check.

Portrait of April Palmer
Palmer

“Our advice for stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the home is very similar to what we recommend for stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the community,” said Dr. April Palmer, UMMC professor and chief of pediatric infectious disease.      

“First and foremost is vaccination for those who can be vaccinated,” Palmer said, “and that goes for flu and COVID-19.”

If a family member has COVID-19, limiting contact and wearing masks can stop COVID-19's spread, Palmer said, “although both are more difficult to do at home.”

Hand hygiene and sanitizing surfaces such as doorknobs and faucets that are touched by multiple family members can also keep a virus – COVID-19, flu or other viruses – from infecting others.

Keeping children home when they’re feverish or have a virus can keep others from becoming ill, said Dr. Sara Weisenberger, UMMC professor of pediatrics and medical director of the Children’s of Mississippi Complex Care Clinic at the Jackson Medical Mall.

For children who have fever that’s not related to COVID-19, “wait to send them back to day care or school until they’ve been fever-free for 24 hours,” she said.

To prevent a virus from spreading throughout your home, follow these tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Separate those who are ill or exposed: If a member of the family has been exposed to COVID-19 or who has COVID-19 or another virus, they should eat and sleep apart from the rest of the family if possible. If possible, let those who are ill use a separate bathroom.

Take care with glassware: Handle glasses, cups, plates and utensils used by someone suffering from a viral infection with gloves. Wash dishes, glassware and utensils with soap and hot water or in a dishwasher. Wash hands after removing gloves.

No sharing: Don’t share dishes, cups, glasses or silverware with a family member who has a viral infection. Also avoid sharing towels, sheets or electronics such as cellphones to keep a virus from spreading to other family members.

When to wear a mask: The family member who is sick should wear a mask when around others at home or when visiting a medical clinic. Wearing a face mask presents the person who is ill from spreading a virus to others. However, children younger than 2 or those with trouble breathing should not wear face masks.

When to wear gloves: Those who are caring for a family member with COVID-19 or another virus should wear gloves when touching any of the sick person’s bodily fluids. Used gloves should be thrown away in a lined trash can. Wash hands immediately after removing gloves.

Watch your own health: COVID-19 caregivers should isolate for 10 days to keep from spreading the virus outside the home.  Caregivers can also guard their health by washing hands with soap and water, using hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol, frequently disinfecting surfaces and avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth.

Keep an eye out for symptoms: COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you or someone in your home may have COVID-19, get tested for the virus. If positive, isolate from others as much as possible for 10 days. Monoclonal antibody therapy is available for those 12 and older or weighing at least 88 pounds.


The above article appears in CONSULT, UMMC’s monthly e-newsletter sharing news about cutting-edge clinical and health science education advances and innovative biomedical research at the Medical Center and giving you tips and suggestions on how you and the people you love can live a healthier life. Click here and enter your email address to receive CONSULT free of charge. You may cancel at any time.