There are many mixed messages in the media regarding Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19), its epidemiology, mode of transfer, incubation periods and so forth. As this is a new virus, Authorities are busily trying to research and develop vaccines, treatments and knowledge. Even research performed on the strain since its discovery is being released rapidly and not being peer reviewed prior to release. Therefore, we are not fully aware that information is correct. There are also the peanut gallery experts who will come out of the woodwork and make claims that are not true.
We have enough knowledge about similar Coronaviruses/Infectious Diseases and good hygiene practices to invoke some logic and control measures that can assist in prevention of infection. As we know from the old adage, Prevention is better than a cure.
As an Internationally certified Bio-Risk Professional, Microbiologist and Occupational Hygienist, here is my advice:
1. Be logical and only believe the facts/recommendations published by known experts or authorities in the field. WHO, CDC, Government Department of Health – these are trusted sources that draw on Scientific and Medical Experts globally to forge recommendations for the prevention and control of COVID-19. There is much hype and here-say during these times and it is potentially dangerous to believe misinformation as leads to fear. Knowledge is your best ally. At the end of the day, mass panic is not going to make matters better, actually worse.
2. Practice good personal and hand hygiene – we all know that poor personal and hand hygiene can lead to increased susceptibility of infection. We know from past experience with gastro outbreaks, food poisoning, influenza and so on and COVID-19 is no different. It is a communicable virus that is spread through contact with an infections person and can be spread through contact with oral liquids. Therefore, minimise touching surfaces as much as possible and wash your hands regularly. Do not reply on hand sanitizer alone as this has be proven to be less effective than washing with soap and water.
3. Keep safe personal distances and avoid enclosed gatherings – this is an isolation control measure using the hierarchy of controls. If we can minimise the spread of the virus through close proximal contact, then we can minimise the rate of infection and spread.
4. Maintain a high level of cleaning/disinfection of your occupied space – whilst the exact time COVID-19 is active in the environment outside the human host is not fully known, we do know that it is anywhere from 3 hours to 2 days and even suggested up to 9 days on some surfaces. Given this information, increasing your cleaning/disinfection practices, especially high touch points and contact surfaces, will help minimise the spread. Make sure that your choice of disinfectant is approved against viruses. Very few will have been tested against COVID-19 since it was only diagnosed just over
2 months ago however, any registered Sterilant or High Level Disinfectant (HLD) will, by definition, be able to inactivate or kill viruses. Make sure you can confirm this with the supplier or service provider.
5. Have appropriate PPE on hand for frontline staff – Make sure your frontline staff such as medical staff, receptionists and first responders have access to PPE to protect themselves against infection. A P2/N95 respirator, gloves, disposable gowns and biohazard waste bags are a good defence against infection. Combine this point with 3 and 4 above in sick bays and medical centres to assist in protecting frontline staff. Triage presenting individuals from a safe personal distance and adopt PPE as required should the presenting individual be deemed a risk.
6. Be Kind and remember that we are all in this together. We all react differently to these crisis situations and it is now more than ever, that we must be our best selves. Do not be aggressive, be kind and understand we all are at risk.
In closing, I quote two of my favourite authors, Douglas Adams and Lord Baden-Powell….Don’t Panic and Be Prepared!. Be safe, Be kind and together with Knowledge, we will get through this.