It’s hard to turn to any media outlet these days without being exposed to more frightening news about the coronavirus. The number of reported cases and the death toll both keep rising, with more cases being reported outside of China each day.

It’s a helpless feeling, hearing about the international outbreak of a disease for which, at the moment, there is no available vaccine. Yet according to officials at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

And they don’t involve wearing a hazmat suit every time you go out in public or shunning the Asian-American neighbors who’ve lived down the block from you for years.

For starters, wash your hands frequently with soap and water. And don’t just use the dip-and-shake method. Get your hands thoroughly wet, lather them with soap for at least 20 seconds, then rinse them properly.

In cases where you can’t follow that regimen, an alcohol-based rub such as a hand sanitizer may be a somewhat less effective substitute, but still better than nothing.

Try to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as desks, doorknobs, handrails and the like.

Avoid close contact with people who have cold or flu-like symptoms.

If this sounds like the same advice you get every year during cold and flu season, that’s because it is. Although the coronavirus hadn’t been seen in humans before its recent appearance, it’s a respiratory virus like the flu. Which means the methods of protecting oneself against it are pretty much the same.

Speaking of the flu, if you haven’t gotten yourself vaccinated for that yet this year, you should. It’s not too late in the year to get a flu shot. And while you’re at it, make sure you’re up to date on all your other doctor-recommended vaccinations.

The coronavirus is getting most of the media attention now, but people are far more likely to fall victim to colds or the flu.

So far, there hasn’t been a single confirmed case of coronavirus in Colorado and there have been only 15 reported in the entire United States.

Yet the flu sickens and kills thousands each year. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated more than 35.5 million people in the United States got the flu during the 2018-2019 season, which led to 34,157 deaths.

It’s not that people shouldn’t be trying to learn more about what’s happening with the coronavirus. People who want to track where the cases are occurring might find an interactive web link maintained by Johns Hopkins University to be useful: https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

But it’s important to keep information about the new virus in perspective and not lose focus on other types of illnesses that represent greater threats to our health. Fortunately, in this case, the steps you can take to protect yourselves against the coronavirus are very similar to what you already should be doing for good hygiene anyway.

In short, spend less time wringing your hands and more time scrubbing them.

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