By Dr. K K Aggarwal
Within the chaos that has taken over the world, there are several rumors circulating in the net and the social circles. Dr. K K Aggarwal takes up each and every one of them in this article and clears the air – coronavirus myths busted.
Coronavirus Myths Busted
- The most important prevention is “Wash your hands”.
Hand-washing, with soap and water, is by far the most powerful weapon against germs than many of us believe in. The soap actually opens the virus, breaking it apart.
Coronaviruses are covered in a lipid membrane or in simpler terms, a layer of fat. Soap can disintegrate the fat render virus unable to infect you. Soap also acts mechanically by making the skin slippery so that with enough rubbing, we can pry germs off and rinse them away.
- Splashing and dashing is common?
Yes. In a 2013 study where researchers discreetly observed 3,700 people wash their hands. The results reported that approximately 5% of them followed all the rules. About one in four people just wet their hands without using soap — “splash and dash”. About one in 10 individuals didn’t wash at all after using the restroom. The commonest shortcoming for most people was time. Only 5% spent more than 15 seconds washing, rubbing, and rinsing their hands.
- Hot water is a must to wash hands?
No. It doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold. Water temperature has no effect on the efficacy of preventing infection.
- If you’re in a public bathroom, and there’s no soap, just rubbing your hands together under the water may help
Yes. A 2011 study from researchers at the London School of Tropical Hygiene found that washing with water alone reduced bacteria on hands to about one-quarter of their prewash state. Washing with soap and water brought bacterial counts down to about 8% of where they were before washing. However, it is important to work with whatever facilities you have and use them to maintain as much hygiene as possible.
- The duration of washing hands should be at least 20 seconds.
Yes, CDC recommends washing your hands with at least 20 seconds. An interesting analogy is to sing “Happy Birthday to You” song twice while washing hands. Studies, where people smother their hands with Glo Germ — a product used to teach proper hand-washing that glows under a black light — before they wash, reveal the areas people tend to miss.
- Paper towels actually have a beneficial effect beyond simply washing
Yes. Rubbing your hands with a paper towel removes even more germs than just washing alone. Dry hands are also less likely to spread contamination than wet hands.
- I can use vodka as a hand sanitizer?
No. Lipid membrane viruses like coronaviruses are killed by more than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Vodka has only 40% alcohol.
- Use a clean paper towel to open bathroom doors.
Yes, this practice is good to ensure hygiene.
- Disinfect dirty surfaces that you use every day, like the touch screen on your phone and your computer keyboard.
- Hospitals are safe and cannot transmit infections?
No, 41% COVID-19 cases in Wuhan were a hospital-transmitted infection. In fact, health care providers are at an increased risk of contracting and transmitting infection.
Additionally, work stress is also believed to weaken their immune systems and close, intimate care of patients can lead to exposure to a higher viral load.
- The virus can remain alive on plastic and steel.
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the longest viability of viruses was on stainless steel and plastic; the estimated median half-life of SARS-CoV-2 was approximately 5.6 hours on stainless steel and 6.8 hours on plastic.
- There is no difference between quarantine and isolation?
In public health practice, “quarantine” refers to the separation of persons (or communities) who have been exposed to an infectious disease.
“Isolation,” in contrast, applies to the separation of persons, who are known to be infected.
In U.S. law, however, “quarantine” often refers to both types of interventions, as well as, limits on travel. Isolation and quarantine can be voluntary or imposed by law.
About Dr. K K Aggarwal
Padma Shri Dr. K K Aggarwal is a senior medical professional.