We now officially are in a Pandemic, with masses of countries currently experiencing the spread of a new type of coronavirus – and there is a lot of uncertainty concerning it.
At the moment, there's a great deal of uncertainty – many countries are currently doing little, many others are shutting schools and large public gatherings... whilst others like Italy and Spain have gone into almost complete lockdown. The situation is changing daily at the moment, with many people wanting more to be done, with others feeling the actions are all too harsh.
So what should be done? Is this all a pointless panic? Is there anything that can be done to avoid getting sick, or recover if it does spread to everybody?
Here we will look at some common statements and beliefs, and analyse them:
“This is all just the usual media hype and panic... every few years, some new plague appears like SARS, MERS, swine flu, avian flu, Zika, Ebola... then they disappear and are forgotten”
Yes, most new diseases that appear do “fizzle out”, or stay isolated in a specific area. Also true is the fact that sensationalism is always prevalent in the media, and they will hype anything if possible. That being said, it only needs one genuinely serious outbreak to spread globally and do huge damage – as was the case in 1918, when approximately 50 million died. Completely ignoring every disease outbreak probably isn't a great idea.
“This new virus is nothing special – standard flu kills tens of thousands of people annually, and almost nobody cares or comments on it – all this coverage is pure hype"
Standard flu does kill a lot more than most people suspect – 20k-80k in USA annually, and around 1000-10,000 in the UK. Covid-19 is nowhere near those kind of levels... yet. There are lots of problems when comparing this new virus with standard flu – the first of which is that this is a brand new disease, and has only just started spreading outside China in late Feb. To make a comparison of infections and deaths, we would need to wait till the end of the year, and then see exactly what the new virus has done. Covid-19 might fizzle out as the weather gets warmer, but could spread to most of the planet...
Also, there are plenty of differences between the flu, and coronavirus...
Flu kills approx 0.1% – Covid-19 currently kills 10-20x more, though that figure is expected to be lower due to many people simply staying home whilst sick.
Flu has an infectivity rate slightly over 1 (meaning people who get the flu, generally infect 1 other person) – Covid-19 has a rate of almost 3 (so 2-3x more infectious).
Flu symptoms start in 1-3 days after being infected, and the worst symptoms last for about 5 days before improving. However, Covid-19 is currently taking about 7, but with many cases taking 10, 15, or even 20+ days of being infectious before the symptoms start (thus greatly increasing the chances of spreading the virus). Once they have appeared, they are also lasting for far longer than standard flu.
Everybody has been exposed to the common flu varieties our whole lives, and most of us have had the flu a few times. This new virus is new – and therefore there is no level of immunity to it yet.
“Even if this spreads and infects millions of people everywhere, most healthy people will recover, so there's nothing to panic about unless you are really old or have compromised health”.
Looking purely at the virus, this seems accurate – people under 60 who don't have weakened systems have way less than 1% chance of dying. The much bigger problem is supplies, and day to day living if the virus does spread. If millions of people get sick, they won't be working, and shipping, transport, and travel will be delayed and hindered. Supermarkets could be understaffed, or closed – and their deliveries from suppliers may reduce/stop. Public travel could also be hindered (or blocked, like in China)... Factor in human nature to panic and buy everything (already getting bad in many places), and shortages of food, drinks, and daily supplies could become more problematic than the virus itself.
“Protection is worthless against this virus, just wash your hands with soap regularly, and don't touch your face”
There are some elements of truth in this, though there are lots of factors involved.
Masks – the common “paper” types that doctors regularly wear have very little effect due to lack of sealing, and generally are more to prevent the wearer from coughing and sneezing over others.
Higher quality (n95/n99/FFP3 rating) and proper fitting respirator types will greatly reduce the chance of inhaling the virus... though they can be difficult to breath through, often fit very poorly, and do nothing to prevent infection through the eyes.
Full face masks/respirators with the correct filters are the only certain way to prevent contraction, but they uncomfortable, expensive, and are likely to draw lots of attention... and of course only work whilst they are (if the virus is on your hands or clothes, you can contract later once the mask is off).
Soap & Sanitiser
Washing correctly with soap and hot water is always the preferred approach, as health officials recommend. However, most people can't continually do that, and once you touch a communal item (door handle, work counter, telephone, anything on public transport) you can pick the virus up again. In most bathrooms, once you've scrubbed your hands, you have multiple door handles to then touch within seconds. Grabbing a drink from a coffee shop involves handling the cup/beaker from the barista, door handles in and out, handling money, and possibly putting your hands on multiple surfaces around the counter.
Due to this, having a handy bottle of hand sanitiser, and/or anti-bacterial wipes
HOW TO AVOID THE VIRUS:
The only 100% sure way to avoid any virus is to avoid contact with other people, and disinfect anything that has been in contact with others... which obviously is practically impossible.
Avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated places is preferable, though for many that isn't really possible – at least unless other measures are put in place like quarantines, telecommuting for work, and so on. Good quality masks can work in some situations, though wearing them for extended periods is uncomfortable – and most masks don't fit properly in the first place.
Touching the nose and eyes with your hands is a common method of contracting the virus, so washing hands thoroughly on a regular basis is key.
Avoiding touching possibly contaminated surfaces is much easier to do. Get into a habit of using elbows, shoulders, and feet to open doors, or the sleeves of your clothes. Using anti-bacterial wipes and sprays on surfaces like door handles, tables, and chairs is useful, since Coronavirus can survive up to 9 days on certain surfaces.
Hand sanitisers can be extremely useful for when you are out and about – shopping, travelling, going in and out of public buildings, and so on... especially when you don't have constant access to soap and water.
There are 2 main types of hand sanitiser – Alcohol Based, and Non-Alcohol based.
Alcohol Based Pros: Very cheap and easy to manufacture, and at the recommend strength of 60-70% it is proven to kill almost all bacteria and viruses.
Alcohol Based Cons: Highly damaging to skin when used regularly (often causes skin to crack, thus exposing you to viruses directly) – Needs generous amounts of gel each application to work properly, thus increasing the long term cost – Once the alcohol has evaporated a minute later, there is no lasting protection whatsoever.
Alcohol-Free Pros: Far less damaging on skin, and can be used very regularly – They generally apply a coating on the skin, which continues to kill nasties for over 2 hours after application – Generally comes in spray bottles, and uses far less per application than alcohol-gels.
Alcohol-Free Cons: More complicated to make, and a lot more expensive to produce (anybody can mix 99.9% alcohol with Aloe gel, even at home) – Some brands don't list active ingredients, and none have been scientifically tested on this new Covid-19 (though many tests have been done on other Coranaviruses like SARS, H5N1 (Avian Flu), MERS, etc).
Alcohol-Based is guaranteed to work if made correctly, and applied correctly (large enough amounts used) – but comes at quite a cost, since it is highly damaging to skin, and can expose to direct infection. Non-Alcohol is far safer for general use, and gives ongoing protection – but some brands may not be as effective.
SUPPLEMENT SUGGESTIONS COMING SOON