I decided I’d blog about Coronavirus because I’m fed up with all the misinformation and nonsense that’s been going on about it (no, I’m not minimising it, read on) and was gobsmacked to see the first nine searches that came up were not from medical sites. I’ve written about it elsewhere this week and only use medical and scientific sites for my information, and then I double check. Rant over. Let’s go.
What is Coronavirus
It’s not one virus, it’s a group of viruses that are all related in some way. They include MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and the probably more well-known SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). This particular virus has the catchy name of COVID-19.
What caused it?
The truth is, at the time of writing, no-one knows the exact source of the outbreak. What is known, however, is that it is transmitted by what are charmingly known as ‘large respiratory droplets’ and direct or indirect contact with such secretions. And now for the nice bit: some coronaviruses have been found in faecal material. I’m not saying that is how COVID-19 is being or has been transmitted, but it comes as no great surprise to me to learn this, since human beings seem to be pretty lax about washing their hands after going to the loo. I’ll come back to that later.
The symptoms, according to Public Health England, are fever, cough and chest tightness, and maybe difficulty breathing.
There was a SARS pandemic back in 2002, with 8098 reported cases and 774 deaths, which means that the mortality rate was about one in ten. Compare that with the Spanish ‘flu’ pandemic of 1918 where between 20 million and 50 million people died. More US soldiers died during this pandemic than were killed in battle during World War I.
There was another ‘flu’ pandemic in 1957/8 which killed around 2 million people and a further one in 1968/9 which killed around 1 million people.
At the moment, the Coronavirus seems to be more like SARS than Spanish ‘flu’ in terms of mortality rates. As with most of these things, it seems to be worse for the elderly, the very young and those with compromised immune systems, so there is no need to panic.
It wasn’t a vaccine that stopped the SARS outbreak back in 2002, it was basic hygiene measures that stopped the virus spreading. I venture to suggest that it will be the same thing that stops Coronavirus too.
Those basic measures are, as advised by NHS England:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or your sleeve, but not your hands, when you cough or sneeze. (I know we were all told to cover our mouths with our hands when we were kids and it’s a reflex action now, but actually, all we are doing is getting the virus on our hands which we then use to touch something or someone, thus transmitting the virus.)
- Put your used tissue straight in the bin. I accept that this is easier said than done if you are on something like the London Underground.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water (please, especially after going to the loo). Use hand sanitiser is soap and water are not available.
- Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands are not clean.
I keep hand sanitiser in my handbag and use it every time I touch money, and, if I can’t wash my hands, before eating. I also use it when I get back to where I was sitting or when I am outside if I use loos in public places – sorry, but I do not trust other people to wash their hands properly. And if they don’t, they touch handles, etc… You get my drift.
Now for the bad news
Scientists aren’t sure how long Coronaviruses can survive on surfaces. (Quick biology lesson: viruses are amazing creatures, depending on the type, they can go through dormant phases where they don’t live in or on a host. Think pharaohs and pyramids. I am most definitely not saying that Coronaviruses can do this, I don’t know. What I am saying is, it is better to err on the side of caution. Back to COVID-19.)
If this virus is anything like SARS or MERS, it will be able to live on surfaces like metal or plastic for nine days. All the more reason for good hand hygiene.
The good news
It seems that normal household disinfectants and high temperatures kill the virus.
How to wash your hands properly
I’ve attached a link to the NHS website which has a video and pictures to show you how to wash your hands properly, and I strongly suggest you look at it, but the précised version is:
- Spend about 20 seconds washing your hands – about the time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice. That is “Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday dear Coronavirus, Happy birthday to you,” not just Happy Birthday.
- Wet your hands with water.
- Apply enough soap to cover your hands.
- Rub the palms of your hands together.
- Use one hand to rub the back of the other hand. Clean in between your fingers too. Do the same thing with the other hand.
- Rub your hands together and clean in between your fingers.
- Rub the back of your fingers against your palms.
- Rub the thumb of one hand using the other hand and then repeat.
- Rub the tips of your fingers of one hand onto the palm of the other hand, then repeat the other way round.
- Rinse your hands with water.
- Dry with a disposable towel.
- Use a disposable towel to turn off the tap.
- Job done.
You should wash your hands:
- after using the toilet or changing a nappy
- before and after handling raw foods like meat and vegetables
- before eating or handling food
- after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
- before and after treating a cut or wound
- after touching animals, including pets, their food and after cleaning their cages
© Susan Shirley 2020