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COVID-19 | School of Public Health Expert Insights

COVID-19

School of Public Health Expert Insights

COVID-19: Infection Control in Your Home

By Dayna Kerecman Myers | March 26, 2020

If someone in your home is sick—whether confirmed or suspected to be COVID-19—that doesn’t mean all members of the household will get sick. There are still things that everyone in a home can do that may help reduce risk of transmission.

Anna C. Sick-Samuels and Raphael P. Viscidi, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine offered some guidance on the most important things to do—and how the equation changes if one of your family members is in a high-risk category.

3 Things to Know

Risk-Reducing Behavior Matters

Most often, the virus will spread through very close contacts with people who are sick with symptoms or from touching your face or mouth with contaminated hands. So, risk-reducing behaviors are the most important priority. That means encouraging more rigorous and frequent handwashing—especially when entering or leaving the house and after using the bathroom; avoiding touching faces; coughing or sneezing into our elbows; and throwing away used tissues.   

Spring Cleaning Could Save Lives

Regardless of whether or not anyone in the household is sick, everyone should be stepping up hygiene. It’s also a good idea to disinfect frequently touched surfaces like door knobs and light switches. A CDC how-to guide gives tips on how to clean everything from carpets to laundry, what solutions to use, and specific precautions to take. If someone in the house is sick, give them a separate, lined trash can if possible, and use gloves or wash hands after handling the trash. Increasing ventilation by opening windows and adjusting air conditioning could help, too.

A Little Distance Could Keep You Healthy

People should try to keep some physical distance—ideally 6 feet apart—between a sick person and other household members, when feasible. If it’s possible to relocate a high-risk or sick person to a separate room or even another home, that could help. But that isn’t practical or possible for everyone. If you don’t live in a mansion—or can’t give someone their own room and bathroom—don’t despair. What’s really important are the behaviors.

Remember, too, that if one member is in a high-risk category (e.g. older people and those with significant underlying conditions), that calls for heightened vigilance. Healthy household members should behave as though they pose a significant risk to more vulnerable members even before anyone is sick, according to a CDC guide with infection control strategies tailored to a variety of settings and situations.

Anna C. Sick-Samuels, MD, MPH, is an instructor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and associate hospital epidemiologist for Johns Hopkins Hospital.  

Raphael P. Viscidi, MD, is a virologist and professor of pediatrics and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and is on faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.