Wellness & Fitness

Coronavirus: Sharing utensils, low immunity, and other myths


As coronavirus spreads, so are the myths. Can it spread through sharing utensils, can you make hand sanitisers using vodka or at what point should you go to hospital? So far, Kenya has recorded seven cases. BDLife spoke to Prof Rodney Adam, an infectious disease specialist and the chair of Infection Control Taskforce at Aga Khan University Hospital to understand this epidemic whose global cases have hit 200,000.

Does coronavirus mostly affect those will low immunity? How then can one boost their immunity?

The initial patients with severe COVID-19 disease were not patients with cancer or transplant (although it is possible they are at risk). The reasons why people with low immunity are more susceptible are not well understood but being actively studied.

Do patients with diabetes have a low immunity?

Yes, diabetics have reduced immunity but that alone does not completely explain their susceptibility to severe coronavirus.

Does vodka or methylated sprit or surgical spirit work as an alternative sanitiser?

They will work only if they have at least 60 percent alcohol (120 proof). But who would use their pricey drink in place of hand gel? Hopefully, the gel isn’t that hard to find. Also remember that the gel keeps the alcohol on the skin for long enough and the alcohol liquid form will run off and evaporate too quickly.

Are there home remedies other than soap and water?

No. Soap and water including hand-gel sanitisers are best home remedies.

How does someone test for coronavirus? Is it blood, urine or saliva?

The best sample is a nasopharyngeal swab, which requires training to do correctly. The test is a PCR test that is done in a specialised lab.

Is the test available in private hospitals?

Yes, the test is available in private hospitals such as Aga Khan University Hospital. The cost varies from facility to another but being a national and global health concern, at Aga Khan, the patients’ health and safety is our priority.

Does sharing of utensils spread the virus?

This could be a minor way of transmitting the virus if one comes in direct contact with the secretions of an infected person.

Can a steam bath cause spread of the virus?

Only to the extent that it brings you in contact with an infected person’s respiratory droplets.

The virus sticks to surfaces. What can be used to clean kitchen, living room, office surfaces?

The virus does stick to a variety of surfaces, including some for as long as three days, but it is not known if human infections results from contact with those surfaces.

Use of sodium hypochlorite (bleach) as a 0.1 per cent solution works well as does a solution with 70 percent alcohol. However, home surfaces are damaged by bleach. Remember that for most home purposes, standard cleaning is adequate; clean and dry the surface.

How does one protect her/himself at the gym?

Infection can occur by very proximity to someone who is infected or by equipment that is contaminated by an infected person. The important thing is to use hand sanitiser and to make sure the equipment and places of hand contact are regularly cleaned.

What are some the misconceptions of coronavirus?

People say that because the virus originated from animals we should stay away from meat and animal products. The 2019-nCoV coronavirus is originally a bat virus but was likely transmitted to humans via another mammal.

Transmission now is human to human, so animal contact will not make any difference for this virus. However, take note that there are other infections that can be acquired from animals. For example, there is anthrax from dead cattle. There is brucellosis from goats, sheep and other animals, and Salmonella from chickens and eggs. And don’t forget dogs; if they haven’t been immunised, they transmit rabies when they bite. That means we must be careful with animals.

There is treatment for Covid-19?

So far, there is not a specific medication that treats the virus (as is true for most viruses). However, with good supportive care nearly everyone infected can survive if they get adequate oxygen when needed and even a ventilator for those who are really sick.

There are many factors that could result in more cases in one area than another. So far, the Italian cases have concentrated in the north and US cases in the west coast.

This may be the result of random events. For example, it may be that a person who is really coughing a lot of virus happens to have close contact with numerous other susceptible persons.

In this case, all of a sudden cases increase. Another infected person may be coughing out much less virus or may not come into close contact with a susceptible person.

Even within households, there are differences from one household to another on how many get infected. Why? That isn’t well understood.

Does temperature and climate change influence Covid-19 infection ?

We know that the disease pattern of influenza is different in the tropics. Influenza exists in tropical and temperate climates, but in temperate climates it is a winter problem and in the tropics it occurs all year.

We don’t yet know what impact climate and temperature has on Covid-19. Some investigators are suggesting that East Asians have higher levels of the receptor for the virus than Europeans or Africans, but that doesn’t explain why the infection appears to be spreading as rapidly in Europe as elsewhere.

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