PREVENTION OF COVID-19; ROLE OF HANDWASHING AND THE FACE MASK
The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV, Wuhan coronavirus), a virus that originated from the Wuhan province of China is now responsible for 400,000 confirmed cases globally. There are also confirmed cases of the virus in over 199 countries outside China, according to the World Health Organization. This virulent outbreak puts global travelers at the risk of exposure hence the current trend of mask-wearing around china and indeed globally in aim to protect self against the deadly virus. Passing through any international terminal, it’s impossible to ignore a sizable uptick blue (disposable or surgical) face mask in self-imposed muzzling on people’s faces. Another daily lifestyle we have all come to adopt is the judicious use of hand sanitizers and hand wash for hand hygiene. This trend is not only seen on wary passengers and airport staff but has since the recent outbreak become part of our daily lives.
This brings the question, can wearing a medical (surgical) face mask protect you against the new coronavirus? And do performing hand hygiene (Hand wash and Hand rub) offer me any form of protection. I mean the virus spreads through respiratory droplets, what do my hands have to do with this??
We will answer all these questions in this article but before we do, let us look through a brief overview of the Covid-19 virus.
Covid-19 is a contagious and potentially fatal respiratory illness characterized by high fever, aches, chills, diarrhea, dry cough, shortness of breath with its hallmark being pneumonia. This virus since its inception has affected over 400,000 individuals, killed over 20,000 people and has spread to over 199 countries. It is therefore important we are saddled with knowledge on simple preventive strategies you can employ to help prevent.
Signs and Symptoms
- High fever aches
- Passage of loose watery stool
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Respiratory Failure
- Heart failure
- Liver Failure
The virus can be spread from human to human in droplets from coughing and sneezing and touching or handshakes.
There are several practices you can adopt to help prevent yourself from getting the COVID 19 virus. As with other infectious diseases, some simple steps can be taken to help prevent the Covid-19 virus from spreading.
Eﬀective personal hygiene can help to stop the spread of SARS. Good personal hygiene practices can help restrict the spread of the virus.
Some practices you can adopt includes
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before and after certain activities such as going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; coming in contact with a sick person.
- If soap and water are not readily available where you are, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay at home when you are sick.
- Observe good cough etiquette; Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Use barrier devices such as a face mask to protect yourself when coming in contact with a seriously sick person.
SO, WHY HANDWASHING?
Handwashing is highly effective in preventing health conditions such as respiratory illnesses. Our hands come in contact with various surfaces daily and by simple infected surface to mouth or eye touch, a virus can be transmitted invitro. By hand washing you can reduce the spread of germs and infections by over 90 percent, so you can stay healthy. Regular handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities (such as before cooking, after using the toilet, after touching a sick person, etc.), is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.
It involves five simple and effective steps which are:
- Remember (Wet lather scrubs raged diseases)
WHEN SHOULD I WASH MY HANDS?
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhoea
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
HOW TO PROPERLY WASH YOUR HANDS
Follow these five simple steps every time.
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them
HOW TO USE HAND SANITIZER
Using a hand sanitizer is as simple as ‘’ARR’’
- A-Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
- R– Rub your hands together.
- R– Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds.
Remember, Life is better and healthier with clean hands. Practice hand washing and hand hygiene always.
DO DISPOSABLE SURGICAL MASK PROTECT YOU AGAINST THE NOVEL CORONA VIRUS?
Can the surgical face mask protect me from the novel coronavirus?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ‘’ does not currently recommend the use of face masks among the general public,” reads the most up-to-date FAQ on the federal agency’s website.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, emphatically states that ‘’the surgical mask plays no role in protecting you against the novel coronavirus’’. The regular kind of mask you’d find online is not all that helpful against any kind of virus,” also warns Amy Shah, a double board-certified medical doctor in allergy and immunology. “Is it bad? No. It’s not like it’s harmful. But will it completely protect you? NO!
WHAT TYPE OF FACE MASK PROTECTS YOU?
A more specialized mask, known as an N95 respirator, can protect you against the new coronavirus, also called 2019-nCoV. The respirator is thicker than a surgical mask and they have tighter-fitting and can filter smaller airborne particles such as viruses.
This mask is however not recommended it for public use because of technicalities surrounding its appropriate wearing and doffing. It is mostly used by health workers.
WHAT THEN CAN I DO?
- The best thing you can do is wash your hands frequently — with water and antibacterial soap for at least 20 seconds — and to keep your immune system up by assisting your self-defence with lots of vitamin C in the form of food.
- Wearing Disposable gloves is also a more effective form of prevention when travelling than the stereotypical surgical mask.
- Postpone any travel to China.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Can surgical masks be of some use?
Yes, but the effect is likely to be modest.
Are you still thinking about wearing a surgical mask? Below is the appropriate way to do it:
- Disposable face masks should be used once and then thrown in the trash.
- You should also remove and replace masks when they become moist.
- Always follow product instructions on the use and storage of the mask, and procedures for how to put on and remove a mask.
- If instructions for putting on and removing the mask are not available, then follow the steps below.
- Putting on a face mask
- Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before touching the mask.
- Remove a mask from the box and make sure there are no obvious tears or holes in either side of the mask.
- Determine which side of the mask is the top. The side of the mask that has a stiff bendable edge is the top and is meant to mould to the shape of your nose.
- Determine which side of the mask is the front. The coloured side of the mask is usually the front and should face away from you, while the white side touches your face.