By Asquith Williams, COO Charlotte Products Ltd.
We’ve been monitoring the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak closely as the emerging virus, COVID-19, continues to spread throughout China. There is currently no treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, and very little known about transmission.
While the spread of the disease is still geographically limited in China, the disease has been detected in at least 25 countries, with most cases being tracked to travel from China. In Wuhan province, where the disease originated, the Chinese authorities have imposed restrictions on travel from other cities. Closings and screening are two ways to slow the spread of the disease, while researchers work to develop treatments and vaccines.
According to The World Health Organization and the U.S. CDC, those who are most at-risk for contracting COVID-19 are healthcare workers caring for those infected with the virus and workers at live animal markets, especially those in China. For the rest of us, it is important to remain vigilant and follow a few key hygiene measures and proper infection prevention in our spaces to stop the spread of all disease.
Wash your hands. According to The World Health Organization, the No. 1 way to prevent the spread of all infection and disease is through handwashing. While we do not yet know the specifics of how COVID-19 spreads, we do know that other coronaviruses spread through person-to-person contact and by touching contaminated surfaces and objects.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. This is as good a time as any to remind you that handwashing should last for at least 30 seconds. We always advise singing “The Happy Birthday Song” two times while rubbing soap and water on hands to ensure that all soil and germs are removed. Next, ensure that hands are properly dried using a towel.
It is important to wash your hands with soap and water:
- After coughing or sneezing
- When caring for others
- Before, during and after you prepare food
- Before eating
- After using the washroom/toilet
- After handling animals and animal waste
- When hands are dirty
Cover your coughs and sneezes. Other coronaviruses have been shown to spread between people when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and their respiratory droplets enter the body of another person. Assuming that COVID-19 spreads similarly, it is very important to practice proper hygiene measures when covering sneezes and coughs. This means sneezing or coughing into a tissue or a hooked elbow, if you sneeze or cough into a tissue, make sure that you dispose of the tissue in a closed receptacle as soon as possible. This will prevent the spread of all germs and viruses.
Maintain a polite distance from others. It is best to stay at least three feet away from other people, especially those showing cold-like symptoms. This is because respiratory droplets may be projected, and if you are too close you could inhale them.
Do not touch your face. If you pick up the virus on your hands, you can still avoid being infected if you do not touch your face before washing your hands. Viruses enter the body through the nose, mouth or eyes. Viruses don’t have wings, they can’t fly into your facial orifices. However, if you touch your hand, which may contain viruses, to your face, then you are bringing the infection right to the place it wants to be.
Wear PPE. While the masks most travelers wear at the airport may not actually be very effective in preventing the contraction of the virus because they are not sealed, they can still prevent the spread of the infection if the person wearing the mask is sick. All healthcare workers should wear sealed face masks and proper PPE to avoid being infected with the virus.
Practice effective infection prevention. So much is still unknown about COVID-19 and so there will be no disinfectants on the market that list this specific virus on the label. We do know that hospital grade disinfectants with an EPA or DIN are effective against other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS when used as directed. Our best educated guess is that we can kill COVID-19 the same way we can kill other coronaviruses. The good news is that coronaviruses are enveloped viruses, which makes them easier to kill.
Use your hospital grade disinfectant on all high touch surfaces such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets and bedside tables. Always clean surfaces first, to remove gross soils, prior to disinfecting. Follow the dwell times listed on the label to ensure that all viruses are killed. When disinfecting, a mask should be worn and disposable gloves should be changed frequently.
Seek medical attention early if needed. If you have any symptoms including a fever, difficulty breathing or a persistent cough, and have traveled to China recently, seek medical care early. Please inform your medical providers of your recent travel history. If you have these symptoms with no recent travel, it may be important for you to stay home and monitor your symptoms, practicing proper hygiene and respiratory care, to avoid infecting others.
COVID-19 is an emerging virus and much of what we know today could change in the future. As we continue to monitor the spread of the disease, we will provide updates as we learn more. By practicing proper hygiene, respiratory practices and thorough infection prevention in your homes and buildings you can help stop the spread of this virus.
It is important to remember that we still do not know the specifics of how COVID-19 spreads. The above recommendations are helpful for avoiding the spread of all viruses, including other forms of coronaviruses including SARS and MERS. Our best educated guess shows us that the spread of COVID-19 could also be prevented through measures that prevent the spread of exiting coronaviruses.