You'd have to be living under a particularly sound-proof rock not to have heard about the current epidemic of a particularly nasty strain of coronavirus called COVID-19.

COVID-19 is believed to have been passed on to humans from a contaminated animal of unknown species at a food market in Wuhan, China. The first human cases were reported in late December 2019, hence the timely suffix.

It isn't the first of its kind: the word "coronavirus" actually describes not just COVID-19 but an entire group of viruses. Because of their signature spiky surfaces, the cluster were named for the Latin word "corona," which means crown.

The group includes viruses ranging from those that cause only a common cold and those responsible for the earlier-2000s epidemics of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus.)

As of yet, COVID-19 appears to have a mortality rate far lower than that of these earlier conditions, but it has also spread far further far faster. Over 100,000 cases have now been reported from at least 60 countries, and the virus has resulted in more than 6,000 deaths.

On the bright side, over half of those who've contracted COVID-19 have already recovered, and the majority of patients will experience only mild symptoms. However, those who are 60 or older or who have serious medical conditions are at an alarmingly high risk of death and complications.

The most dangerous underlying conditions that could exacerbate a coronavirus infection are diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer, which all happen to be conditions that can be caused or worsened by obesity.

Studies done on previous coronaviruses also indicate that obesity itself may be a risk factor for more serious disease, and that seems to be the pattern with the COVID-19 outbreak as well.

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There's no surefire way of preventing a coronavirus infection, aside from perhaps being in possession of an air-locked secret hideout, but there are plenty of commonsense things you can to reduce your risk of getting sick.

Panicking isn't going to get you anywhere, since stress itself can actually lower immunity, but you shouldn't be so cavalier that you put yourself in a dangerous situation either.

Even if you deem yourself at low risk, you could easily pass the virus on to someone at a higher risk either directly or by way of infecting someone, who infects someone, who infects someone...

This kind of chain reaction could also overwhelm healthcare systems and prolong the entire crisis, which could lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths and have huge ripple effects on the economy and on our day-to-day lives long-term.

This is why it's so important that we flatten the curve of the virus's spread by keeping outings and interaction to an absolute minimum, a practice called "social distancing."

This might include speaking to your boss about remote working options, rescheduling or cancelling any impending gatherings, and steering clear of most public places.

Now, "public places" includes the gym, but that doesn't have to mean putting a button on your fitness. You're free to go for a walk or a run in any open area or utilize whatever exercise equipment you have at home. Additionally, a quick YouTube search can also find you plenty of exercise tutorials that require only a mat and yourself!

Though you may feel safe if you avoid touching other people while out, beware that the virus can also be transmitted through the air and can lurk on surfaces for up to 48 hours.

Gloves will also do little to prevent any lurking germs from spreading to your face or body, and you should not wear a mask unless you are ill or caring for someone who is. Thoughtless use of masks could leave a dangerous shortage for medical workers and sick patients, which could also perpetuate the virus's spread.

You can however, try making your own mask. Studies indicate that though surgical masks are the gold standard, a homemade mask made from a simple t-shirt should give you at least some protection.

When you do find yourself out and about, make sure you regularly wash your hands with soap and clean water, or regularly use a hand sanitizer that's at least 60 percent alcohol. You should also make an effort to avoid touching your face as much as possible.

Finally, if you do find yourself feeling sick, don't panic; there's a good chance you just have an ordinary cold or flu, since the early symptoms can be almost identical to those of coronavirus. A runny nose, sore throat, or fever could go either way, but a bad cough, tightness in the chest, or difficulty breathing may be a sign of something more serious.

In either case, though, you should immediately put yourself on full quarantine to avoid infecting others, and refrain from breaking it for at least 14 days unless you need medical attention.

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So, while you can't avoid getting older, you can combat the detrimental effects of age by reducing your other risk factors and improving your overall heath. Since one 100 year old man survived the virus, the numbers clearly aren't everything!

For many of us, getting healthier will start with getting down to a healthier weight, and there's scarcely a better time to do it and scarcely a better way to it than through the 123Diet's easy and effective program. After all, 4.7 million yearly fatalities that are linked to obesity, which is second to only smoking as a cause of preventable deaths in the US!

However, people who are underweight or malnourished are also at higher risk of coronavirus and other serious health issues, so a global health crisis is no excuse to eat a less-than-healthy amount of calories either.

Instead of skimping on your intake, you should make an effort to stay well-nourished on fresh, healthy food as long as it's available, though frozen or canned fruit, vegetables and lean protein should also do the trick if you're trying to minimize grocery trips.

Now also may be a good time to stock up on tea and spices; both have long shelf lives and are an easy way to add a dose of antioxidants and vital micro-nutrients to your meal without significantly increase it's calorie content. For more inspiration, you can also check out our lists of immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory foods.

Meanwhile, if there's anything that can be learned from this debacle, it's that we shouldn't wait for a mass pandemic to start worrying about our health; we should be doing that all year long! As we've all unfortunately learned, there's no way of knowing when or who the next catastrophe will hit.

Want to get in shape for 2020? Join our Facebook support group and learn about 123 Diet from other community members!

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