World Health Organisation – Basic protective measures against COVID-19 and myth busters

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    16th February 2020 – (Hong Kong) World Health Organisation has issued a general advice to the public to protect themselves against the COVID-19. Gargling mouthwash, rinsing your nose with saline, spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body and eating garlic do not protect a person from contracting the virus.

    Wash your hands frequently

    Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty.

    Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub eliminates the virus if it is on your hands. 

    Practice respiratory hygiene

    When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

    Why? Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing prevent the spread of germs and viruses. If you sneeze or cough into your hands, you may contaminate objects or people that you touch.

    Maintain social distancing

    Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.

    Why? When someone who is infected with a respiratory disease, like 2019-nCoV, coughs or sneezes they project small droplets containing the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the virus.

    Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

    Why? Hands touch many surfaces which can be contaminated with the virus. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself. 

    If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

    Tell your health care provider if you have travelled in an area in China where 2019-nCoV has been reported, or if you have been in close contact with someone with who has travelled from China and has respiratory symptoms.

    Why? Whenever you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing it’s important to seek medical attention promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Respiratory symptoms with fever can have a range of causes, and depending on your personal travel history and circumstances, 2019-nCoV could be one of them.

    If you have mild respiratory symptoms and no travel history to or within China

    If you have mild respiratory symptoms and no travel history to or within China, carefully practice basic respiratory and hand hygiene and stay home until you are recovered, if possible.As a general precaution, practice general hygiene measures when visiting live animal markets, wet markets or animal product markets

    As a general precaution, practice general hygiene measures when visiting live animal markets, wet markets or animal product markets

    Ensure regular hand washing with soap and potable water after touching animals and animal products; avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with hands; and avoid contact with sick animals or spoiled animal products. Strictly avoid any contact with other animals in the market (e.g., stray cats and dogs, rodents, birds, bats). Avoid contact with potentially contaminated animal waste or fluids on the soil or structures of shops and market facilities.

    Avoid consumption of raw or undercooked animal products

    Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.

    Are hand dryers effective in killing the new coronavirus?

    No. Hand dryers are not effective in killing the 2019-nCoV. To protect yourself against the new coronavirus, you should frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.

    Can an ultraviolet disinfection lamp kill the new coronavirus?

    UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin as UV radiation can cause skin irritation.

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    How effective are thermal scanners in detecting people infected with the new coronavirus?

    Thermal scanners are effective in detecting people who have developed a fever (i.e. have a higher than normal body temperature) because of infection with the new coronavirus.

    However, they cannot detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with fever. This is because it takes between 2 and 10 days before people who are infected become sick and develop a fever.

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    Can spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body kill the new coronavirus?

    No. Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth). Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.

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    Is it safe to receive a letter or a package from China?

    Yes, it is safe. People receiving packages from China are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus. From previous analysis, we know coronaviruses do not survive long on objects, such as letters or packages.

    Can pets at home spread the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV)?

    At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.

    Do vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the new coronavirus?

    No. Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus.

    The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV, and WHO is supporting their efforts.

    Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.

    Can regularly rinsing your nose with saline help prevent infection with the new coronavirus?

    No. There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus. 

    There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold. However, regularly rinsing the nose has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.

    Can gargling mouthwash protect you from infection with the new coronavirus?

    No. There is no evidence that using mouthwash will protect you from infection with the new coronavirus.

    Some brands or mouthwash can eliminate certain microbes for a few minutes in the saliva in your mouth. However, this does not mean they protect you from 2019-nCoV infection.

    Can eating garlic help prevent infection with the new coronavirus?

    Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.

    Does putting on sesame oil block the new coronavirus from entering the body?

    No. Sesame oil does not kill the new coronavirus. There are some chemical disinfectants that can kill the 2019-nCoV on surfaces. These include bleach/chlorine-based disinfectants, either solvents, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform.

    However, they have little or no impact on the virus if you put them on the skin or under your nose. It can even be dangerous to put these chemicals on your skin.

    Does the new coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?

    People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. 

    WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

    Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus?

    No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria.

    The new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.

    However, if you are hospitalized for the 2019-nCoV, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.

    Are there any specific medicines to prevent or treat the new coronavirus?

    To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

    However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care. Some specific treatments are under investigation, and will be tested through clinical trials. WHO is helping to accelerate research and development efforts with a range or partners.

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