Rentokil Initial are the experts in protecting people and enhancing lives. This blog post on “What COVID-19 means for you” is shared from our Hygiene blog: Insights.
At the end of December 2019, the World Health Organization was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. This virus was identified as a new (or novel) Coronavirus, named COVID-19 on 11th February. Corona is a family of viruses that include the common cold, as well as the SARS and MERS viruses.
By the end of January, it was reported that more than 7,000 people had been infected by the virus. Although most of these cases were in China, cases had also been confirmed in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, the United States, France, Italy, Australia, Malaysia, Nepal, Germany, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Finland and the United Kingdom.
On the 30th of January 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a global public health emergency. At the time of writing, there have been 17 confirmed cases of the virus in South Africa, all bar one originating in patients who have travelled abroad recently. The first case of local transmission was reported in the Free State and is that of a 32-year-old male who came into contact with a Chinese businessman. Although South Africa ranks low on the list of impacted countries it is important that we continue to educate ourselves about the virus as well as ways to minimise our risk of contracting it.
Scientists around the world are currently looking into the transmissibility and severity of COVID-19, but until we know more, there are hygiene behaviours that we can easily adopt that are proven to be effective against the spread of viruses.
How is COVID-19 transmitted and how contagious is it?
It is important to note that how a virus spreads from person to person varies greatly. Sustained person-to-person spread in the community has been reported in China and now internationally. However, similar to other respiratory viruses, it is believed that transmission most commonly occurs via droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Reported symptoms of confirmed COVID-19 infections have ranged from mild to severe, with the most common being fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.
Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.
Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.
Should you take special precautions?
Currently, no special precautions have been officially advised, however, you can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:
- Practice regular good hand hygiene using soap and water, and the use of an alcohol-based hand rub solution (e.g. hand sanitiser).
- Stay away from people who are coughing and sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
- Follow good respiratory hygiene: this means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands.
- Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
Will I be putting myself at risk if I travel?
We recommend that you check with your national authorities for travel advice on whether to travel to a country affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Travel advice is also available on the World Health Organisation’s website.
What is the most effective method for hand washing?
As recommended by WHO, the most effective hand washing procedure is to wash your hands with soap and water. Follow these stages:
- Hand washing (40-60 sec): wet hands and apply soap; rub your entire hand, making sure to also cover the tops of the hands and the thumbs with soap. Rinse hands and dry thoroughly with a single-use paper towel, and use that paper towel to turn off the tap.
- Using an alcohol-based formulation, rub hands for 20-30 seconds. Apply enough product to cover all areas of the hands including tops of the hands and the thumbs; rub the surfaces until dry.
Initial also suggest printing handwashing posters to increase awareness of handwashing at this time. For example, posters at critical areas; washrooms, kitchen and eating spaces. You can download posters for free on our Initial website.
Until such time as COVID-19 is scientifically understood, you may wish to download our leaflet on recommended hand hygiene steps to prevent the spread of viruses.
If you would like to speak with us regarding best hygiene practices for your environment, contact Initial and we will be happy to guide you. Never miss a hygiene update by subscribing to our Initial blog, or visit our site for free handwashing posters and other hygiene collateral.