Corona facts and myths: A comprehensive guide to protection

Injy Deif , Wednesday 25 Mar 2020

Ahram Online presents a shortened compilation of what we know about novel corona virus and a guideline of protection

A member of medical team sprays disinfectant as a precautionary move amid concerns over the coronavi
A member of medical team sprays disinfectant as a precautionary move amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak at the underground Al Shohadaa "Martyrs" metro station in Cairo, Egypt March 22, 2020. (Reuters)

Differentiate between facts and myths

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is constantly updating a fact checklist and recommendations.

The link between different climates and the survival of coronavirus is not yet conclusive, but case evidence shows that coronavirus has been transmitted in all areas and climates, whether humid, hot or very cold.

Hand dryers are not effective in killing the virus, mosquitos do not transmit it, antibiotics should not be used in treatments or protection, as corona is a virus not bacteria, and there is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus.

Although thermal scanners are effective in detecting people who have developed fever, they cannot detect those who are infected but not yet showing symptoms, because it takes between two and 10 days before people who are infected become sick or develop fever.

Age is irrelevant, and although those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill, the young and old should be especially cautious.

Vaccines against pneumonia do not protect against the new virus. Having said that, the WHO notes that vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.

Until now, no treatment has emerged as conclusively effective, but those infected can receive relief for some symptoms, along with supportive care. 

Some specific treatments are under investigation, and will be tested in clinical trials in the weeks and months ahead.

The danger lurking on surfaces 

How long does the coronavirus — which relatively speaking is not especially minute in size — reside on different surfaces? 

A comprehensive study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says that the virus is most contagious when carried in droplets, and can remain so for several hours, depending on the surface it lands on, before becoming inactivated. 

Tests show that when the virus is carried on droplets released when someone coughs or sneezes, it remains viable, or able to still infect others, for at least three hours. 

On plastic and stainless steel, the virus could be detected after three days. 

On cardboard, the virus was not viable after 24 hours. 

On copper, it took four hours for the virus to become inactivated. 

According to the research, led by Neeltje van Doremalen of the NIAID’s Montana facility at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, in terms of half-life, the research team found that it takes about 66 minutes for half the virus particles to lose function if they are in an aerosol droplet. 

This means that after another hour and six minutes, three quarters of the virus particles will essentially be inactivated, but 25 percent will still be viable. 

On stainless steel, it takes five hours and 38 minutes for half of the virus particles to become inactive. 

On plastic, the half-life is six hours 49 minutes, researchers found. 

On cardboard, the half-life was about three and a half hours, but researchers said there was a lot of variability in the results, so caution is still advised.

Protection 101 

The guideline published by the US-based Mayo Clinic gives the following advice against infection: 

— In case of having to approach a sick person, or one with symptoms, keep a minimum distance of two metres. 

— Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitisers used should contain a minimum of 60 percent alcohol. 

— Always cover the mouth and nose with the elbow if you cough or sneeze. If you use a tissue, discard it promptly and wash your hands afterwards.

— Avoiding touch the mouth, nose and eyes if you are not entirely sure of the cleanliness of your hands. 

— It is of utmost importance to avoid large events and gatherings and practice social distancing. 

The mask craze 

Pictures from all over the world shows faces hidden behind masks as a form of protection, which led to a scarcity affecting those who really need to put them on: health professionals. The WHO issued a guide line for people to understand the facts about masks and their use: 

— Masks are essential if you are coughing or sneezing, to prevent transmission to your surroundings. They are also essential if you are taking care of an infected person or someone suspected of being infected. 

— Masks are fully effective only if used in combination with frequent hand cleaning, using soap and water or alcohol based steriliser. 

— Masks should not be touched while being worn, and before wearing them, hands must be sterilised. It should also be noted that a right mask should leave no gaps between face and mask, and that disposing of the mask should be by removing it from behind, not the front. 

— A single-use mask must not be reused, and should be disposed of it becomes damp. 

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