COVID-19: Cleaning, disinfecting not the same —Experts

Maintaining personal hygiene is the very first thing that is effective in preventing Coronavirus infection. In this article by Sade Oguntola, experts in infection control also highlight salient ways to avoid the infection both at home and outside.

IS Covid-19 making you worried if you are cleaning your home enough? So far, medical advice has focused mostly on the importance of frequent washing of hands with soap and flowing water, which is said to be the most effective protection against the new disease.

Cleaning and disinfecting are not the same. Soap cleans and is the first choice for hands. It works by allowing dirt and germs to detach from the skin and get rinsed off.

Disinfecting is the first choice for surfaces to ensure they are clean at all times. Coronavirus spreads through droplets sprayed into the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Thus, it is unlikely that these droplets remain air bound and enter into the house with the wind.

Coronavirus can last from several hours up to days depending on the nature and texture of a surface. It can remain stable on porous surfaces like ceramics for several days. It can also survive on stainless steel, plastic and cardboard for many days.

Dr Adeola Fowotade, a virologist at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, said a good disinfectant to routinely clean high-touch surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks and toys is a 0.5 per cent bleach solution.

A good disinfectant solution is a diluted solution of household bleach. To make a 0.5 per cent bleach solution, mix 10mls of bleach per 60mls of water or four teaspoons of bleach per quart of water.

Keeping the COVID-19 situation in mind, refrain people walking into the house with their outside shoes is also important. “This disinfectant can also be sprayed on the sole of the shoe to kill whatever germ, including coronavirus, that it could have brought from outside into the house before exposing the shoes to the sun,” she added.

Coronavirus can survive on the floor for some time. Before now, many people mopped the floor with detergent and water.

However, Dr Fawotade said, “a disinfectant made with a bleach solution is a better option to mop floors with to kill whatever germs maybe deposited.”

If you’re coming home after being in a high-risk environment, like the market or the hospital, she suggested removing clothes worn, washing the hands and then wearing another change of clothes.

The used clothes should not be put together with the general laundry of the house, they should preferably be soaked in hot water for about 20 minutes and then either hand-washed or machine wash before spreading in the sun. Such is ironed also.

She added “For someone like me that works in a hospital, I have not worn a wristwatch or bangles for many weeks since the problem started and that is because I am trying to reduce the things that can be potential source of having the virus.

“And then when we go out and carry out transactions we should carry out cashless transaction as much as possible.

You don’t know those that might have touched the money and what that person is carrying on his or her hand.”

The hair could be a potential source of the virus, especially those that go out with their heads uncovered.

“Someone that goes around without covering the hair might consider washing their hair with warm water at the end of the day. I do that every evening just before going to bed. This definitely will be easier for those of us that have natural hair or dread,” Dr Fowotade added.

A clean environment is also basic for preventing any form of infectious diseases. Everything about COVID 19 is not known at the moment. She, however, declared that maintaining a clean environment is also basic to COVID-19 prevention.

Since COVID-19 is primarily spread by aerosol droplets and the lockdown is relaxed, one must ensure that the germs are not brought back into the house. This, she said, would require that individuals always wear nose masks when outside the home and board only commercial vehicles with three occupants or be the lone passenger on a commercial motor.

Should you be wary of what foods and drink to take and their preparation to fend off infection? So far, medical advice has focused mostly on the importance of washing our hands and social distance. But Dr Hannah Adegbola, a medical microbiologist and head of UCH’s infectious control committee added that people need to also desist from using their teeth to cut open pure water sachets.

Often the possibility of the chilled sachet water sold on streets then touched on the tip by hawkers or other people who may also be infected with coronavirus cannot be ruled out. It could be a way the virus enters the mouth.

Most homes cook their food for a long time, so the possibility of the virus surviving the high temperature has not been proven. However, she said foods that are eaten raw such as cabbage, mangoes and oranges may constitute a threat and should be individually washed with vinegar or little soap under running water.

Dr Adegbola-Dada said poor cough etiquette and such dirty habits of wiping off mucus from the nose with the hand, make eating in eateries also a threat in the prevention of COVID-19. A contaminated food, whether from Coronavirus or other disease-causing germs is better avoided.

Face masks’ care, handling and disposal, Mrs Adebimpe Gbaja, UCHs Chief Infection Control nurse, said is also important. Face masks, she said should be personalised, the fabric types washed and left in the sun and ironed while the disposable ones are thrown into covered dust bins.

According to Mrs Gbaja, “the virus could have settled on it, perhaps when in contact with somebody that is infected. By handling it with the hands and without proper hand hygiene, one can infect one’s self and others. That is why washing it every day is advocated: you wash and dry under the sun and iron.”

Already community transmission of COVID-19 has been established. In ensuring no contact at the saloon, Mrs Gbaja said although the clippers might have been sterilised, it is better for both the barber and the person having a hair cut to wear a face mask. Talking without a face mask and the closeness in barbing are potential means of coming in contact with the infection.

Also, she emphasised cleaning items frequently touched and carried around, such as house or car keys, cellphone, wallet and purse.

She said the practice of stacking clothes worn for the week to be washed later in the week is not advisable for now; these clothes might have been worn when in contact with an asymptomatic person infected with coronavirus.

Things like bedsheets, towels, or reusable kitchen napkins are not washed frequently in many households. Keeping the COVID-19 situation in mind, consider changing the bed sheet every couple of days and wash hand towels after each use.

No one gets infected by touching the virus. It cannot pass through the skin, only through a mucosal membrane. Infection occurs when the virus is on your hands, and when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth. So when in the car, keep it clean by wiping the steering wheel, dashboard and door handle with disinfectant. Put bags in the trunk, not inside the car.



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