Greg Murphy looks at way to minimise your risk of being exposed to the coronavirus
Originating in the city of Wuhan in China, the Covid-19 virus transmits effectively in humans and appears to have a higher mortality rate than more common illnesses such as seasonal flu.
The symptoms include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
A large study based in China found that 80% of cases so far presented with mild symptoms of the virus, 15% had more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or other lung problems, while fewer than 5% of cases were critical.
Those most at risk from the virus include older people, those with respiratory problems, heart disease, and/or diabetes.
The viral nature of the disease has prompted countries around the world to create public health measures in an effort to contain the epidemic.
But what can you do to help minimise the risk of being exposed to the Covid-19 virus? There are a number of steps you can take.
Health organisations across the world are recommending that people wash their hands with soap and warm water regularly throughout the day.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitiser when you do not have access to soap and water.
The HSE recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and to make sure they are properly clean
Keeping your hands clean is essential to kill viruses and to stop the spread of harmful bacteria and germs.
Our hands touch many surfaces during our day and can pick up any number of germs. Once contaminated, your hands can spread these germs to your eyes, nose or mouth, giving them a direct path to enter your body. Some may find it difficult to break the habit, but bear in mind it’s strongly recommended by the WHO.
Practice good respiratory hygiene. It might sound obvious, but covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough is critical to preventing the spread of germs to other people.
Droplets can spread viruses, and by practising good hygiene methods you can protect people around you from sicknesses such as cold, flu, and Covid-19.
Ideally, you should use a tissue to catch any possible germs leaving the body, but if you’re caught short, cover your mouth and nose with a bent elbow.
Make sure to dispose of your tissue immediately after use.
Meanwhile, if you’re around someone who is sneezing or coughing, health officials recommend you keep at least a one-metre distance from them to avoid breathing in a spray of liquid that may possibly contain viruses.
‘Close contact’ may be considered as spending over 15 minutes within two metres of an infected person or living in the same accommodation as them.
The HSE advises these are only examples and will only apply while Ireland remains in the containment phase.
However, if you have Covid-19 symptoms you may be asked by a medical professional to self-isolate until you can be tested and wait for results.
This will protect you and help stop the spread of viruses and infections.
A full list of dos and don’ts is available on www.hse.ie as well as information for those who live with other people, caring for a child, or someone who is in self-isolation.
Stay up to date with the latest developments of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Follow advice being issued by the Department of Health, the HSE, your healthcare providers, or medical professionals.
Your employers should also keep you informed on any developments concerning the coronavirus and how it may affect your work.
Do not trust rumours spreading online or on social media and trust only reputable sources for your information on Covid-19, such as Dr Doireann O’Leary (@dr.doireannoleary) on Instagram.
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On top of this, make sure you stay up to date with the latest virus hotspots and avoid travel to these areas.
Sales of hand sanitiser have soared in the last few weeks with many supermarkets already having run out of supplies.
But, to prevent the spread of Covid-19, is an alcohol-based hand sanitiser going to give you more protection than washing your hands with warm water and soap?
Health experts agree that hand sanitisers need to be at least 60% alcohol to kill most viruses with most store-bought variants containing 60-95%.
The downside of these, however, is the overuse of alcohol-based sanitisers can cause irritation, especially for those with sensitive skin.
According to a 2019 study by the American Society for Microbiology, water and soap is a more effective method of keeping your hands clean and germ free.
Soap has some mild antibacterial properties and, while it doesn’t kill all viruses, it is the best method for keeping your hands clean.
When you wash your hands it is important to make sure that they are properly dried as contamination is more likely to happen through wet hands.
Best practice is to use paper towels rather than an air drier.
Overall, health officials advise washing your hands with soap and warm water regularly where possible, but if you don’t have access to these, a hand gel will suffice while you’re out and about.