With the emergence and rapid spread of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19), proper hygiene and sanitizing techniques have never been more important. Many of us have questions about best practices when it comes to hygiene in public places as well as in our homes. As large events are canceled and stock markets become volatile, it can be difficult to sift the propaganda and panic from the concrete, scientific truth. But the Center For Disease Control (CDC) and the The World Health Organization (WHO) have been diligent about providing accurate, pertinent information as well as educational materials to the public regarding prevention and safety. We’ve compiled information from both organizations about the best ways to keep your community and family safe and healthy.
A 3D medical illustration of 2019 Novel Coronavirus, derived from a CDC released image. The cross-section shows the inner components of the virus.
Image: Scientific Animations/ Creative Commons
The CDC recommends avoiding touching your face or shaking hands with others, washing hands often, disinfecting doorknobs, tables, desks, and handrails frequently, and increasing ventilation if possible by opening windows. They also recommend social distancing which means remaining out of congregate settings, refraining from travel, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible. Avoid sharing food, drink,and utensils, and stay home and call your doctor first if you or someone in your household is feeling ill.
According to the CDC, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) can be transmitted between people in close contact with one another (within 6 feet or 2 meters) and through respiratory droplets that become airborne when someone coughs or sneezes. People are thought to be most contagious when they are symptomatic. At this time, it is not thought that the virus is carried by pets, so your dogs and cats are safe and do not need to be quarantined.
Those most at risk of developing a critical, even lethal case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) are people age 65+, or those with compromised immune systems, such as a chronic, underlying disease like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease. The vast majority of those infected will recover from the disease at home, without needing professional medical attention. At present, the mortality rate of the virus is comparable to the influenza virus. The disparities we are seeing in their rates of infection have more to do with the fact that no human has any immunity to this new virus, unlike influenza to which many humans are immune.
The molecular structure of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is such that the virus is encased in a lipid envelope (essentially a layer of fat). Soap contains amphiphiles (molecules that bind to fats) that will break down this membrane, killing the virus. While the alcohol in hand sanitizer can also kill the virus, it will not physically remove all of the particles off of your hands. By washing your hands, you are not only killing these virus particles with soap, but rinsing them off of your hands altogether.
Wash hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing between fingers and under fingernails. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains more than 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and continue rubbing until dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Image taken from elementary school classroom in Idaho, December 2019 (prior to COVID-19 outbreak), posted by teacher after having all students touch each piece of bread.
Most EPA-registered household disinfectants will work to kill Coronavirus (COVID-19). Options for cleaning household surfaces include bleach solutions, alcohol solutions, and other EPA-registered household disinfectants. To make a bleach solution, mix 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons per quart of water. Any alcohol solution should have at least 70% alcohol.
It is unclear how long the virus can survive on an inanimate surface like a countertop or a doorknob. Preliminary evidence suggests that it behaves like other coronaviruses in that it can persist for a few hours or even several days if the right conditions are provided (i.e. the right temperature or humidity). The best way to protect yourself is to frequently clean handles, doorknobs, countertops, keyboards, desks, and other high traffic surfaces, with an EPA-registered, bleach-based or alcohol-based solution.
*Note: It is thought to be safe to receive packages from countries or areas that have seen outbreaks of the coronavirus (COVID-19), since it is very unlikely that the virus could survive on an inanimate surface in the time that it would take to ship the object abroad.
Scientists have established that coronavirus (COVID-19) is more contagious than the seasonal flu (see image below). If you are experiencing cough, fever, or have difficulty breathing, stay home and away from others. Symptoms and severity vary widely, from light coughing and a runny nose, to severe respiratory illnesses like pneumonia. The WHO recommends that as long as your fever is low and manageable with Tylenol and Advil, that there is no need to go to a hospital. In fact, they recommend that you not go to the hospital unless your fever becomes unmanageable or you are having difficulty breathing that cannot be alleviated with over-the-counter cough syrups and medications. If hospitals become overwhelmed with patients that would have otherwise recovered at home, they lose their ability and efficiency to treat those who are in desperate need of critical respiratory support and constant monitoring.
Image sourced from VOX, information regarding R naught values sourced from various medical journals sighted above. Image provides visual representation of how many additional people are likely to become infected from one sick individual.
The preliminary knowledge seems to be this; keep your hands to yourself and respect yours and other’s personal space. Disinfect surfaces often and wash your hands as frequently as possible. If you do experience symptoms, call your doctor before going out in public. Stay home and away from others as much as possible and monitor the severity of your symptoms.
This article may contain general information relating to various medical conditions and their treatment. Such information is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for the advice provided by a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. Effective Coverage will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages arising therefrom. Patients should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice or information about diagnosis and treatment.