At the start of the pandemic, sanitation was seen as an important part of health measures to control the corona virus. But as evidence of the disease spreading through the air has started to emerge, the focus has shifted to masks and more recently ventilation. In fact, the attention of some people has shifted so quickly to the spread of disease through the air rather than the surface, that hygiene measures such as frequent and thorough hand washing are now unnecessary.
Derek Thomson, writer for The Atlantic, calls it “theater of hygiene,” which refers to measures that make us feel safe, but don’t really do much to reduce risk. So, do these hygiene measures really give us a false sense of security? Is it just a waste of time and money? And when the spread of COVID-19 is mainly by air, why are we monitoring these measures? Since the time of Florence Nightingale, hygiene and especially hand hygiene have been recognized as an effective measure to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
Dealing with an easy way for viruses to enter our body
Over the past year, public health advisories have recommended hand hygiene to break the cycle of COVID transmission, along with other measures such as distancing and wearing masks. Less attention has been paid to explaining how the hands can serve as a means of transmitting infections. SARS-CoV-2 is one of the most resistant coronaviruses and, according to a recent study, it can survive for up to 28 days on glass, steel, polymers and paper. We don’t know what minimum amount of SARS-CoV-2 is needed for infection, but recent reports suggest that only a few hundred viral particles (called “virions”) can infect a susceptible individual. And our face is an easy way for these viruses to enter our body.
Many infections start when we touch our mouth, nose or eyes. Scientists studying this behavior have found that people are constantly touching their faces. Respiratory viruses, such as influenza and SARS-CoV-2, since they are spread primarily through liquid particles exhaled from the airways, can also be spread by touching the nose, mouth and eyes with contaminated hands. . The risk of this happening depends on several factors, including the amount of contamination in the hands, the rate of hand-to-hand contact with the nose, eyes and mouth, and the infectivity of the virus strain. This is particularly relevant today, as new types, such as deltas, emerge with greater infectivity and transmittance.
People touch their face an average of 22 times per hour
The possibility of being infected with a respiratory virus by touching the face is not a new concept. Recently, researchers watched videos typical of 100 people on YouTube and reported that people touch their faces an average of 22 times per hour. This number is higher in men and increases with fatigue and anxiety. The researchers argued that changing individual behavior is a simple and cost-effective way to reduce the risk of contracting an infectious disease. The eyes, nose, and mouth provide an easy entry route for viruses like SARS-CoV-2. While respiratory droplets and airborne transmission have been shown to be the primary mechanisms by which COVID is spread, researchers continue to study the relative contribution of surfaces and hands to the COVID infection cycle.
The World Health Organization has not ruled out the surface spread of Kovid. Even though it is only a small percentage of transmission, a small percentage of a large number (about half a million new cases per day) remains a large number. It’s important to note that researchers need to understand whether new forms of anxiety behave differently. Sanitation is not a theater or a play, it is a component of infectious disease prevention and control, and a component over which people have control. And, despite the acquisition of COVID on all of our communications, other infectious diseases continue to spread and cause infections.
Author Fidelma Fitzpatrick, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences