The coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. SARS-CoV-2 is the novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19. As it proceeds to spread around the world and, namely, Pennsylvania, many are wondering how to protect themselves and their family from this imminent health crisis. While it may seem counterproductive to some to try to protect themselves from a disease that hasn’t been confirmed in the county yet, it is important to know what the risks are and what one can do in the absence of effective treatments and vaccines.

Anyone can contract the coronavirus. The symptoms may appear in two days or as long as 14 days after exposure, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The CDC says for most people, the immediate risk of becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus.

However, the CDC states that older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19.

Even if one does not have pre-existing conditions like an autoimmune disorder and are not elderly, it is important to protect those who do.

Older adults, 65 years and older, are at higher risk for severe illness, the CDC says. According to the CDC, in the cases of people over the age of 85, 10% to 27% have resulted in death. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to practice isolation.

People may develop what appears to be a cold in some cases, and in rarer cases, flu-like symptoms. The CDC says people should seek medical advice if they have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. The CDC suggests calling ahead before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room to tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.

Those with COVID-19 have had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. The CDC says more severe complications of the coronavirus is pneumonia in both lungs, multi-organ failure and, in some cases, death.

The greatest thing people can do to protect themselves from COVID-19 is to stay home. It is a contagious disease and spreads just like the flu or a cold—through the air by coughing or sneezing; through close personal contact, like touching or shaking hands; by touching an object or surface with the viruses on it; and occasionally, through fecal contamination, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, states.

While it may seem obvious or too simple to be effective, washing hands often, especially after blowing ones nose, coughing or sneezing, or after being in a public place is a good preventative measure to take. If soap and water isn’t available, the CDC suggests using hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose.

Lastly, stay calm. There are always rumors flying around when big things like this happen; the Federal Emergency Management Association started a coronavirus rumor control page, visit it at

The CDC suggests creating a household plan of actions in case of illness at home or disruption of daily activities. It suggests considering a two week supply of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, food and other essentials. FEMA suggests buying what your family needs for a week as many families may be unable to buy a supply of food and water for weeks in advance.