BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines -As the global community scrambles to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists and medical professionals go round the clock in finding a definitive preventive measure and cures in the form of a vaccine, but the process of creating a vaccine takes so many steps in ensuring it’s efficacy that it takes years, the earliest we can expect for a COVID-19 vaccine is 2021. (READ: The CoviD 19 Saga: PUM vs PUI, what’s in a Word?)
A key part in managing the COVID-19 pandemic is trying to decrease the epidemic peak, known as flattening the epidemic curve through measures seeking to reduce the rate of new infections. (See illustration below)
Slowing the infection rate decreases the risk of health services being overwhelmed, allowing for better treatment of current cases, and provides more time for a vaccine and treatment to be developed.
The CDC recommends that people wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the toilet, when hands are visibly dirty, after blowing one’s nose, coughing or sneezing.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are recommended with at least 60% alcohol by volume when soap and water are not readily available. The WHO advises people to avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. (READ: The COVID-19 Saga: Diagnostics and the Test Kit Dilemma)
Why does soaps work so well on SARS COV 2 and most viruses? A virus is a self-assembled nanoparticle in which it’s weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer.
It’s as if it’s encased in grease – soap dissolves the fat membrane and the virus falls apart. You do not need harsh chemicals to split the viral units apart as there are no strong covalent bonds holding it together. While there are no vaccines and drugs that can cure or prevent one from the infection, a simple soap from the dark corners of your bathroom does the job.
To be fair, handwashing does not only shield you from potential infection, but it also shields others from being infected by you – and because of that it can be said that handwashing is a selfless act that should be done by all and every members of society.
It is common courtesy and eventually a necessary rule of life and death as mandated by health organizations that people cover their mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing (the tissue must then be disposed of immediately).
Surgical masks are recommended for those infected, as wearing limits the volume and travel distance of expiratory droplets dispersed when talking, sneezing or coughing.
The WHO has advised rules and guidelines on when and how to use masks, you may read more here.
Masks are also recommended for us by those taking care of someone who may have the disease. Healthy people are not recommended to wear masks, they are only called to protect themselves when they are in high-risk places – as masks are technically the lowest grade of protection and are designed mainly to protect others from the wearer. Some countries have advised to use masks even for healthy individuals especially for those who use public transport. In the Philippines, shortages of masks are noted thus it is imperative to save it for the frontliners and the general public practice the other guidelines for self-protection instead.
An infection control that slows the spread of a contagion by minimizing close contact between individuals. Methods to follow include quarantines, travel restrictions, closing of schools, workplaces, stadiums, theatres, shopping centers and also includes churches. Individuals are advised to stay at home, and cancel any plans of social gathering. Older adults and those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, hypertension, and compromised immune systems face increased risk of serious illness and complications and have been advised by the US CDC to stay home as much as possible in areas of community outbreak.
Although controversial, Self-isolation at home has been recommended for those diagnosed with COVID-19 and those who suspect they have been infected. Health agencies have issued detailed instructions for proper self-isolation.
Seven days of self isolation and quarantine is recommended from the start of symptom onset. (READ: The CoviD19 Saga: Symptomatology and Virology)
Fourteen days of isolation for the other members of the family in the household. And if they start showing symptoms, they must self isolate for seven days regardless of which day they are in the 14 day isolation period.
It is recommended that we move the elderly or those with underlying conditions such as asthma to another house for the meantime, but if not, strict social distancing must be applied at all times. It is also recommended to use separate bathrooms, utensils or any object for that matter, and to clean and disinfect any objects generally held in the household (like phones, and doorknobs) after touching.
Infographic of Preventive Measures from CDC
Grenfell R, Drew T (17 February 2020). “Here’s Why It’s Taking So Long to Develop a Vaccine for the New Coronavirus”. Science Alert.
Anderson RM, Heesterbeek H, Klinkenberg D, Hollingsworth TD (March 2020). “How will country-based mitigation measures influence the course of the COVID-19 epidemic?”. Lancet
“Advice for public”. World Health Organization.
“People at Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19”. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.