Today I am not writing about plants. Today, I am addressing you as a pharmacist, research scientist, but also as a mother, (grand)daughter, as a small business owner and as a member of your community.
There has been a lot of misinformation and related panic about the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes (COVID-19). I don’t want to and won’t act as a self-appointed “expert” on the virus, its epidemiology or mitigation. However, as a medical professional, I feel it is my duty to make sure we share only correct information and practice relevant protective measures.
Here are four basic things you can do to protect yourself and your family, friends and community from the quickly spreading virus.
#1 STAY AT HOME
This one is pretty simple. Apart from necessary trips such as going to work, buying food, helping family or taking a medical walk (including a walk to stay mentally healthy) you should stay at home. When outside, practice “social distancing”. It means you should stay at least 1.5m away from anybody who you meet outside. (Apart from people you already share household with.)
#2 WEAR A FACE MASK
If you need to go outside and social distancing may be difficult (for example while doing grocery or working with other people) wear a face mask. This is why:
The novel coronavirus spreads (as many other common viruses, including the virus of flu) via bodily liquids. That includes saliva and its droplets. Those are expelled out of your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Additionally, the odd droplet can find a way out when you as much as breathe or speak. The droplets (and thus the virus) released from someone else’s mouth can get into your body via your mouth, nose and eyes. While a face mask won’t completely stop this direct transmission (unless you have a high-grade medical version), it can significantly limit it. And that is enough to slow the spread of the disease.
WHO recommends using masks that cover your mouth and nose if you are experiencing flu symptoms and/or if you are coming in touch with someone infected with the novel coronavirus. However, it is difficult to know of or when you come in touch with an infected person. This because of two reasons. 1. The symptoms of the infection typically take days to manifest in infected people. 2. Not everybody who has flu-like symptoms gets tested for COVID-19. Additionally, some people can be infectious prior to showing symptoms. Therefore, it is a good practice to wear a face mask in public in all cases.
The Czechs and their Face Masks
The Czech Republic is one of the few countries were the spread of the disease does not follow an exponential trend. Instead, the increase of new cases is way milder. This prevents the medical system from getting overwhelmed. This was achieved, among other reasons, by making wearing a face mask in public spaces compulsory. This video explains more and shows the exemplary behaviour of Czechs that we should all follow.
I know it is difficult to get hold of a face mask at the moment. But good news is that you can sow your own! The Czechs have dressed the whole nation in hand-sewn masks within three days! Here is a selection of videos on how to stitch a face mask together using a machine or your hands only. And here are instructions from WHO on how to use a face mask properly. You have to sterilize a hand-sewn mask (e.g. insert into boiling water for 15 minutes and iron afterwards) after every use (one use = 2 hours).
#3 WASH YOUR HANDS AND KEEP THEM MOISTURIZED
Apart from the direct transfer via bodily fluids as described above, the virus can be transferred via contaminated hands and objects. You should consciously stop touching your face and wash your hands thoroughly before you eat, when you come home etc. While soap and water will do, wetting your hands under a tap after you’d touch the soap won’t! Here is a video that shows how to do the handwashing correctly. In cases where you cannot access soap and water, it is recommended to use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
You should also know that frequent washing and sanitizing of your hands may rid your skin of the protective lipid layer (so called “defatting”). When this happens, the skin is prone to cracking and even bleeding. Damaged skin cannot fulfill its protective role perfectly. When it comes in touch with a contaminated surface, the virus can find its direct way into your body. No washing will help you. Thus, remember to keep your hands well moisturized to prevent skin damage.
While I am in a process of manufacturing a hand-sanitizer, you can take advantage of our Chamomile & Leatherwood Remedial Salve which has great results in keeping hands moisturized and skin healed. I have placed a 10% discount on it and it is yours while stock lasts.
#4 If you are feeling unwell, RING YOUR PHARMACIST.
If you experience flu-like symptoms do not go to your GP but instead ring you pharmacist or your doctor to discuss next steps.
Lastly, I also recommend you watch news from other countries – especially if you live in Australia. You don’t have to look to far – New Zealand is a great example.
Finally, there are a couple more links you should check out: