I just sent this email to all the members of my tennis club. I am going to chair the social committee this coming season and I thought everyone should be aware of certain precautions. I am sharing that email here for the benefit of my patients.

Like many of you, I can’t wait to start our tennis season including the socials and round robins. Unfortunately, we are facing a viral epidemic around the world that started in China and is rapidly spreading. We are all closely following the developments and the epidemiology of this virus.
I think it is important to understand what the COVID-19 virus is, how it is transmitted and what to do to protect ourselves. A virus is not a live organism. It is made of genetic code in the form of DNA or RNA that penetrates the cells in our body and commandeers the cell to make more viruses. These viruses are released and infect other cells and other organisms like humans and animals. Outside the body, the virus can stay infective for a few hours to a few days depending on what surface it is sitting on. It remains infective longer on hard surfaces like a countertop or a table. The Coronavirus family includes the common cold, the influenza (flu) etc. This particular virus, COVID-19, is part of that family. It started in Wuhan, China and has quickly spread around the world affecting countries like Italy and Iran seriously. It has the potential to become an epidemic in the USA and has already caused many cancellations of flights and meetings. It can spread from an infected person to others by direct contact like touching, hugging, or kissing. It can also be transmitted by sneezing and couching that create aerosol droplets containing the virus. You can also get infected by touching a contaminated object and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
So what should we do? We don’t want to stop enjoying our healthy activities. We want to continue our socials as usual unless things get a lot worse in New Jersey and the US. Here are some precautions that make a lot of sense to me.
1) No more handshaking, hugging or kissing.
2) Keep a safe distance between you and the next person. 6 feet is recommended.
3) After a game of tennis where everyone has touched the balls, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before touching your face or grabbing a bite to eat.
4) If you sneeze or cough, make an effort to point yourself in a direction away from others, cover your mouth, and then please wash your hands.
Unfortunately, many people suffer from seasonal allergies. Those people can usually tell that what they have is allergies. If you feel that you are developing cold/flu symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat, coughing or fever, then stay at home, call your doctor and possibly get tested. COVID-19 has an estimated mortality rate of 2 to 3 % depending on reports. This may change and be less serious considering that many people have milder symptoms and don’t get tested. In comparison, the normal flu or influenza has a mortality rate of 0.1 %. People with diabetes or chronic respiratory conditions are more seriously affected.
As the new candidate social chair and a physician,  I will be watching the development of this virus in our area closely. Hopefully, this will get better by early May when we start our socials. I will provide you with more updates as we get closer to that time.
Farhad Rafizadeh MD