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Here's What To Put In A Coronavirus Preparedness Kit

The CDC has warned that the spread of coronavirus is less of an "if" and more of a "when."

Disclaimer: The status of coronavirus spread in the US and the regulations being put in place to contain it are changing rapidly. To stay up to date, continue to read local and federal updates on the situation, the CDC's most current coronavirus guidelines, and subscribe to "Outbreak Today," BuzzFeed News' coronavirus newsletter.

If you're monitoring the coverage of the novel coronavirus, by now you're likely aware that the Centers for Disease Control is telling the public to prepare for its potential spread in the US.

Now is the time for US businesses, hospitals, and communities to begin preparing for the possible spread of #COVID19. CDC continues to work with business, education & healthcare sectors, encouraging employers to be prepared. Learn more:

"Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country," Nancy Messonnier, a CDC director, said in a press briefing on Tuesday. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”

As of Thursday, the World Health Organization has not declared a pandemic or a global outbreak, but that is looking more likely as the coronavirus continues to spread.

There are more than 82,000 confirmed cases worldwide as of Thursday, including 60 in the US (including 43 people repatriated to the US after the outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the Chinese province of Hubei). But with outbreaks occurring in more countries across Asia and Europe, CDC officials are anticipating an inevitability of it spreading in the US as well. On Thursday evening, CDC officials also reported the first possible case of "community spread" — a person who got sick without traveling from China or had any known exposure to someone with the virus — in California.

Before assembling a kit, it's helpful to have an understanding of what you can expect to use it for.

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The CDC anticipates that with the potential for more community spread, there may be cancellation of large events, school and daycare closures, and a shift toward telecommuting to minimize the risk of exposure. It also anticipates voluntary home quarantining for anyone who might have been exposed to the virus or anticipates potential exposure. (As of Thursday, the CDC believes that symptoms may appear in as little as two days or in as many as 14.)

Essentially, in the case of community spread, the CDC is anticipating disruption to daily life that might require advance planning in the event your area is affected. In some cases, it may also affect your ability to leave your home to gather supplies.

In terms of creating a coronavirus preparedness kit, though, there's no need to buy out your local drugstore.

The US Department of Homeland Security already has a preparedness plan for pandemics on their website, which outlines measures people should take in anticipation of one — and while the CDC has not yet declared a pandemic, it may be worth looking at these guidelines if you want to prepare for the possibility.

Here are the things you should consider including in a coronavirus preparedness kit, according to those guidelines:

1. Flu supplies.

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The CDC says that at this time, there are no approved vaccines or medications to treat coronavirus, but that it is is marked by fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia. That said, it presents the greatest risk to the elderly or people with underlying health conditions, and in the event of a pandemic, many people will likely be able to treat it at home. If you don't already have them on hand, consider purchasing supplies like "pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins," according to the US Department of Homeland Security.

2. Two weeks worth of food and water.

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Your next run to the grocery store might be a good time to stock up on frozen goods or foods like crackers and tuna that don't have expiration dates in the next few months. You may also want to grab extra toiletries you're running low on, like soap, toilet paper, paper towels, and tissues. Pet owners will want to make sure they have extra pet food on hand.

While your running water should be fine, it might not hurt to pick up extra water bottles in case someone in your household is sick and you're trying to minimize their use of the household appliances; you should also consider electrolyte-enhanced fluids like Gatorade if someone in your household does develop symptoms.

Consider also the foods that you'll find easier to eat if you develop symptoms, like crackers, bread, and soup.

3. Two weeks worth of medication you normally take.

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This includes prescription medications like birth control, antidepressants, anxiety medications, and medications used to treat ongoing medical conditions. Check with your provider to see if there is a possibility of obtaining medications early, for the sake of having them on hand. Barring that, it may be useful to look into prescription delivery as a backup option to make sure you have access.

4. Your health records.

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The US Department of Homeland Security also recommends collecting and maintaining your health records, for the sake of having them on hand in case of an emergency — if you're unsure of how to do that, the department recommends using the healthcare initiative Blue Button to get started.

That said, there are a few things you *don't* necessarily need to be adding to your preparedness kit right away.

Masks: The CDC recommends that only people who are sick themselves or people who are in close proximity to people who are sick use masks, but does not recommend that people who are well wear them.

BuzzFeed News has more answers to questions you may have about masks and how to use them here.

More supplies than you need: While the warnings about coronavirus should be taken seriously, it's important to remain calm. At this time, the public has not been given any reason to prepare for more than two weeks of supplies. Odds are that you already have the baseline of the things you need at home — preparedness, in this case, is just getting a few little extra things to round it out.

If you're overwhelmed at the idea of assembling a kit, consider buying the minimum of what you think you or your household will need online.

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Again, as of Thursday, WHO has not declared coronavirus a pandemic, and the known cases in the US seem to be contained; the need for supplies isn't so crucial that you can't afford to wait a few days for them to arrive in the mail.

In the meantime, continue to practice safe prevention — both for coronavirus and the spread of contagions in general.

According to the CDC, this includes staying at home when you're sick, avoiding close contact with sick individuals, cleaning objects that are touched often like doorknobs and appliances, covering your coughs or sneezes with a tissue, and frequent handwashing with soap and water. The US Department of Homeland Security also recommends avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and maintaining your wellness in other areas of your life, including staying active, managing stress, and getting enough sleep.

Most importantly, though, is to remain informed but calm.

"I also want to acknowledge the importance of uncertainty," said Messonnier in Tuesday's briefing. "During an outbreak with a new virus, there is a lot of uncertainty. Our guidance and advice are likely to be fluid subject to change as we learn more. We will continue to keep you updated."

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