There is a lot of varying information floating around about the current Covid-19 situation, including the virus itself. My professional association, AACMA (Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association) hosted a webinar last night with Microbiologist Margaret Jennings (www.marjenes.com.au) to update us as a profession on all things Covid-19.
Whilst a lot of the information pertained to us as practitioners, there were some key points that I think are important for us as a society to be aware of. As they say ‘knowledge is power’ – so let’s get powerful!
The first and biggest point that Margaret made was that this virus is looking for our throats. It may also go for our conjunctiva (thin lining of the eye) or alveoli (air sacs in the lungs), but it is mainly interested in getting to the back of our throats.
This is a virus spread by droplets (saliva, sputum, mucous) and 82% of virus particles will fall within 1.5metres, hence the need for social distancing. There is also some evidence to suggest that you would need to be in close contact with someone for around 15 minutes to become infected.
There is a 95% reduction in the opportunity for transmission of the virus when outside due to the extra fresh air and diffusion of droplets. However, social distancing is still very important at all times. Open windows where you can, and socialise outdoors where possible.
The main symptoms of Covid-19 are sore/scratchy throat, fever (about 40% of cases), chills, headache, runny nose, extreme fatigue and muscle aches. There may also be shortness of breath, and loss of taste and smell. Fewer cases (~10%) have also presented with vomiting, diarrhoea and nausea. Some people are only experiencing one or a few of these symptoms; some people are completely asymptomatic. This virus is varied in the way it manifests, so any of the above symptoms, no matter how mild should be an indication for testing ASAP.
The half a day before symptoms appear is when the patient is most infectious, hence why contact tracing is so important. All cases are asymptomatic at the start – anywhere from 2 to 12 days (average of 6 days)– however the virus will shed during this time. For this reason, keeping a diary of where you have been and who you have been in contact with is a good idea. That way, should you become infectious, it won’t be difficult to note your movements during your incubation period.
If symptomatic – STAY HOME (except for getting tested – but don’t stop at the supermarket on the way home!).
For community transmission to reduce, mask wearing can certainly help. We’re seeing an increase in the amount of people choosing to wear masks in NSW, and in Melbourne it is now mandatory when out in public.
A cloth mask (3 layers preferably) is fine when out in public, otherwise a Level 2 or 3 surgical mask is recommended. Masks with valves or filters should not be worn as these allow the wearer to potentially breathe the virus out.
It is important to never touch the front of your mask – this becomes a potentially infected site. If you do, you need to wash or sanitise your hands. Also, a wet mask is ineffective – so will need to be changed.
This is a straightforward virus to de-activate. The outside of it is a fatty coating, hence why at least 70% alcohol hand rubs are needed to break it down. It is important to note that you need enough hand rub so that it remains wet for at least 20 seconds for it to be effective in disrupting the coating. Once the alcohol has evaporated and dries, it is no longer acting on breaking the virus down so becomes ineffective.
Washing hands is of course very important too with warm soapy water, and the 20 second rule applies here too. Jewellery, long nails, dry/rough skin and even nail polish can compromise hand hygiene so think about this and what you can do to improve your personal situation.
Surfaces need to be cleaned regularly, especially high touch points such as door handles and light switches. A good strong disinfectant is sufficient, but surfaces need to be wet for at least 1 minute for the virus to de-activate. It is unknown how effective the virus is at spreading through surface contact however it is thought that it can remain active on paper/textiles for around 1 day, and plastic/glass/metal for around 2 days. After 48 hours it is usually inactive.
Covid-19 is not as infectious as measles or TB which are airborne diseases, however it has mortality rate that is 7-10 times higher than influenza, at 0.6%-0.7%.
As a member of society, it is important we all do our part to save lives. As Margaret stated, this is not a complicated virus to deactivate. Practice impeccable hand hygiene and strict social distancing, if symptomatic get tested and STAY HOME until you have a negative result. Think about your part in spreading the virus on the off chance you are infectious. Remember you will be infectious before symptoms appear. And if you develop even the slightest symptom, GET TESTED!
Stay safe everyone. We will get through this together.