What Does Flatten the Curve Mean?
There is always a sharp increase, a peak and a decrease in the natural course of infectious spread. To “Flatten the Curve” means practicing preventative behaviors will reduce the rate of the spread of infection. Our “Contagion Cleaning Checklist” covers dozens of places germs hide. The slower an outbreak of anything spreads, the more the medical community can keep up.
Washing your hands, mobile devices and door handles frequently, and staying home when sick, can help “Flatten the Curve.” Slowing the spread of infection means that healthcare systems can handle a steady flow of sick patients, rather than an overwhelming tsunami of sick people.
The simple chart at the top of this article was originally found on page 18 of a 2007 CDC report. The report suggested that simple interventions such as:
- Frequent hand washing – because soap and water really work!
- Social distancing (no crowds and stay 3-6 feet apart)
- Staying home when sick
- Keeping kids home from school
…would slow the spread of a disease so that the healthcare system could keep up.
“I think the whole notion of flattening the curve is to slow things down so that this doesn’t hit us like a brick wall,” said Michael Mina, associate medical director of clinical microbiology at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It’s really all borne out of the risk of our health care infrastructure pulling apart at the seams if the virus spreads too quickly and too many people start showing up at the emergency room at any given time.”
What Can We All Do To Flatten The Curve?
As of the last update on this page (March 26, 2020) China appears to be on downward curve. However, Italy, Spain, the U.K. Iran, and now the US, are still in their upward path. After viewing the situations in other countries, the rest of the world has the opportunity to Flatten the Curve of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“From a US standpoint, you want to prevent any place from becoming the next Wuhan,” said Tom Frieden, who led the CDC under President Barack Obama. “What that means is even if we’re not able to prevent widespread transmission, we want to prevent explosive transmission and anything that overwhelms the health care system.”
This works! China took the dramatic move of locking down tens of millions of people days before the important Lunar New Year holidays. This was frustrating to residents and bad for the economy. But, it slowed the virus from spreading any more rapidly and aggressively than it did.
Simple actions such as: social distancing, greeting people in welcoming ways other than handshakes, and frequent hand-washing will have a big impact. Washing your hands is far better than draconian measures such as lockdown. Learn more about how COVID-19 is transmitted, so you can avoid catching it.
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