Bega orthopaedic surgeon Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh speaks about the COVID-19 risk, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, and precautions everyone can take.
We are in the midst of one of the worst pandemics ever, with an organism we have no experience with and with no treatment or vaccine in the near future. Some countries are apparently having to make decisions as to who gets treated (read: who gets to live) because of shortage of treatment options for seriously ill patients.
The only way out of this mess is to reduce the number of people getting the infection so that we can at least offer some form of treatment to the remaining patients. Remember the fights for toilet paper? Imagine when the fight is for ventilators. Nasty? You bet. Far-fetched? No.
COVID-19 is a virus. It does not care who it infects. It does not matter where it came from, who set it free, who allowed it to roam the world. The only important point in front of us is to make sure we do not allow it to roam freely in Australia.
COVID-19 spreads by droplets and the droplets are released into the atmosphere when we sneeze or cough without covering our mouth and nose with a tissue paper/hanky/crook of the elbow to prevent the explosive spread of the droplets into our vicinity.
A recent study by Associate Professor James Lloyd Smith from the University of California showed the virus can survive on plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours and on cardboard surfaces for 24 hours. This is the serious part.
If, for example, you cough into your palm and then hold the handle of the shopping trolley at Woolworths or Coles the virus gets transferred to the handle and infects everyone touching the handle of that particular trolley for almost 72 hours. Can we even begin to imagine how many adults and children will touch that handle in that time? Each person then carries the virus on their hands and body to transfer everywhere they touch. That is why the virus spreads so fast. That is why both Woolies and Coles have provided trolley wipes next to their trolleys in order to give you some protection.
So, how do we get out of this mess? Obviously with some difficulty and quite a bit of personal inconvenience. Do we have a choice? Not really.
"Social distancing" is the most important principle. It means you keep a distance from other people. Does not matter if they have never gone abroad or on cruises. Do you know if they have touched a contaminated shopping trolley? You don't. Don't take a chance.
This means you stop group activities like meetings, concerts, cinema, tours, cruises and footy matches. Right now.
It means you avoid unnecessary physical contact with other people in the form of hand shakes, fist bumps, elbow bumps, hugs and kisses. Right now.
Be careful pressing the lift button, holding the hand rails of the escalator, or touch screens in fast food restaurants or ATMs. Use a tissue to avoid direct contact whenever possible. Dispose of the tissue carefully.
The second most important is handwashing for 20 seconds with soap and water. Twenty seconds is the "Happy Birthday To You" song sung twice.
Why soap? The surface of the virus contains fat as a protective layer. Soap destroys this layer and kills the virus.
Magazines and newspapers in common areas like doctors' waiting rooms can carry droplets and infect you when you sit there flicking through them, especially if you lick your finger in between for easy flicking.
If you have come in contact with an infected person or been to a potentially infective gathering, isolate yourself for 14 days. Yes, you may survive the infection even if you don't isolate yourself, but you may pass it on to someone less healthy or older and the infection may kill them. Call your doctor's office and check if you need to be tested.
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