If we know the enemy and focus on the essentials, a potentially deadly virus becomes a threat like any other.
In contrast to the official advice “avoid shaking hands”, “coughing in the elbows” and “washing your hands frequently”, the following recommendations take into account the specific, situation-related danger and require considerable self-discipline. If you internalise the six rules and follow them consistently, you can safely ignore the flood of well-meaning tips for self-protection. If we know the enemy and focus on the essentials, a potentially deadly virus becomes a threat like any other.
Keep the distance to another person.
The coronavirus targets the mucous membranes of the eyes, mouth and nose. This is the only way it can penetrate the body. Healthy skin is impervious to the virus. The virus cannot be transmitted over longer distances (airborne) in the air. It is dangerous only when the droplets land on the face of the person. The person can be infected when the other one, who has a virus, talks to him or her from the distance of one meter, or when he or she is coughing from two meters away. The coronavirus can fly one meter after it has been released during talking, or coughed out or sneezed from the distance of two meters.
Normal protective glasses and a simple surgical mask covering mouth and nose, or even a cloth draped over the mouth and nose, are a protection against the infection by droplets. If someone sneezes or coughs into your face, you should remove your mask immediately and wash your face with soap. After you return home, wash your mask in the temperature of sixty degrees.
The virus that lands on your skin, hair and clothes is not dangerous and harmless until it gets to your mucous membranes.
Wash your hands before touching your face or eating.
Coronaviruses can survive on clothes, skin, hair and other surfaces for several hours, and sometimes even for days.
After touching a handle in the public place with fresh secretions from an infected person, and then rubbing your eyes, face or touching your food, you can be infected with a “smear infection”. Outside of your home, you should leave your eyes, nose or lips untouched if you have dirty hands.
That is easier said, than done. We unconsciously touch our faces about ten to twenty times per hour. Neuropsychologists claim that touching one’s face serves emotional stabilisation. Suppressing this habit is not easy. If you have problems, use a cover to protect your face and nose.
Minimise hugging only to household members, if necessary.
If an infected person’s skin or hair comes into contact with a healthy person’s eyes, mouth or nose, it is a feast for all kinds of pathogens. But partners can kiss each other because family members who live in a household will get infected with any virus regardless. One should reconsider kisses or hugging grandparents who may suffer life-threatening illnesses.
Consider public indoor areas as contaminated.
In public transport, restaurants, shops and other public areas, coronavirus is present on any surface. After returning home, one needs to consider that their clothes and hands have been contaminated. Therefore, one should hang the clothes in the separate room to where you normally would place it or close to the door, and wash hands thoroughly with soap. One should consider washing hair because it has also been contaminated. The virus exposure to the surfaces is lower because the pathogens are diluted and inactivated by the environmental influence.
If you have a cough or fever, stay home.
In the coronavirus pandemic, nobody should go to work, school or daycare centres. Nobody should use public transport or go to areas with many people if they have a cough or fever. Please note that A runny nose, is contrary to what is stated, is not one of the typical symptoms of Covid 19. Daycare centres, in particular, must strictly observe this rule, because children — according to the current state of knowledge — are often only mildly ill but can transmit the virus. If you have to go shopping with a fever or cough or use public transport, you should wash your hands beforehand and wear a surgical mask or a cloth over your mouth and nose. Both must be dry, otherwise exhaled droplets will form when you exhale. Stay calm!
Anyone who respects these rules of the game can avoid being infected with the new coronavirus as it comes with a high degree of probability.
Overreacting hardly brings any additional protection and makes life unnecessarily complicated — after all, we are not dealing with Ebola and Co. (but the risk is different to certain risk groups). In everyday life, you do not need the infection protection masks (FFP2 respirators) intended for medical personnel or larger disinfectant stocks.
Those who get sick these days should keep in mind that common colds and flu are still much more common than Covid-19. And those who get infected despite everything usually have a 99% chance of survival.
Professor Alexander S. Kekulé - microbiologist, virologist, epidemiologist. He is the Director of the Institute for Biosecurity Research Halle, Germany. He is also a University Professor and Director of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at Martin Luther University. Prof. Kekulé holds specialty qualifications in virology, microbiology, infectious disease epidemiology, laboratory medicine and emergency medicine.
From 2003 to 2015, he served as an appointed adviser on disease control to the German Federal Government.
This article has been translated from German original and slightly edited.