Johnston: How to prepare for, handle spread of COVID-19

As this is National Nutrition Month, I planned to talk more about nutritious meals and planning.

But in light of the recent coronavirus diagnoses in Kentucky, I thought it may be more apropos to discuss the virus and the information surrounding the recent developments.

I went to Kroger on Saturday to grab a few things and walked past the cleaning supplies aisle. There was one lone canister of Lysol wipes on the shelf. The rest was completely bare.

I’m hoping everyone who needed a canister was able to get one and others weren’t hoarding all they could “just in case.”

But this raised my awareness that maybe more information was needed about how to prepare for and handle our current situation.

I am not an epidemiologist nor am I a health care provider.

But, I have information from the University of Kentucky, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and a little common sense.

Armed with these tools, I feel comfortable in my ability to stay calm during some of the hysteria surrounding the coronavirus.

The most important thing is to get as many facts as you can, not fear-based information seen on social media or other sources. The CDC and the World Health Organization are considered the most factual sources for this illness.

Here are some facts from the CDC that are important for everyone to know:

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. Since that time, other countries, including the U.S., have seen cases of the illness.

How does COVID-19 spread?

The virus that causes COVID-19 probably emerged from an animal source, but is now spreading from person to person.

The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

It is important to remember that this is a new disease and we are still learning about how it spreads and the severity of the symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

Patients with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath

How can I protect myself?

People can help protect themselves from respiratory illness with everyday preventive actions.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand  sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

If you are sick, to keep from spreading respiratory illness to others, you should stay home.

Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

If no tissue is available, cover your nose and mouth with your flexed elbow.

Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces.

It is still recommended that the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to practice good hygiene. Washing your hands is so very important and your best defense against the spread of any illness. The WHO reports that studies have shown no certain benefit from using a face mask if you are NOT sick. If you are experiencing symptoms such as coughing and sneezing, go ahead and wear a face mask to prevent possible transmission to others. But please don’t go buying face masks if you are not sick so that we leave them for the people who actually need them. And finally, please remember to stay calm and educate yourself from appropriate sources. The CDC has some great information on their website regarding many topics surrounding COVID-19. We also have several handouts and information sources on hand washing and COVID-19 here at the Extension Office so please feel free to reach out to us.

Shonda Johnston is the Clark County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at 859-744-4682 or by email at