How to protect yourself from coronavirus

As the number of coronavirus cases in India jumped to 147 on Wednesday (March 18), the government has taken several new steps to place the country in a near-total lockdown with states across the country shutting down schools, colleges, parks, gyms and public gatherings.

On the other hand, the number of fatalities around the world due to the coronavirus outbreak jumped to 7,956 on Wednesday. China has the highest number of fatalities at 3,237, followed by Italy with 2,503 deaths and over 30,000 cases.

Here are some basic preventive measures against the new coronavirus:

1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub. Washing your hands with soap and water for around 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses.

2. Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. This is advisable because when someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus.

3. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth because hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth and the virus can enter your body from there too.

4. Practice respiratory hygiene and ensure that the people around you follow good respiratory hygiene. You can do this by covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze.

5. If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and stay home if you feel unwell. Follow the directions of your local health authority as it will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility.

6. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, computers, phones, keyboards, sinks, toilets and countertops daily.

7. Wear a facemask if you are sick and also when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle).

8. Keep in mind the travel advisory set out by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

How to choose the correct hand sanitiser

The sales of hand sanitizers have jumped manifold in India and other parts of the world since the outbreak of coronavirus. There is no denying the fact that hand sanitizers can help in reducing our risk of catching certain infections but all hand sanitizers are not equally effective against coronavirus.

Hand sanitizers can protect against disease-causing microbes, especially when you do not have access to soap and water and they can also prove effective in reducing the number and type of microbes.

There are two main types of hand sanitizers: alcohol-based and alcohol-free.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, as the name suggests, has varying amounts and types of alcohol, often between 60% and 95%. These sanitizers usually have isopropyl alcohol, ethanol (ethyl alcohol) or n-propanol.

On the other hand, alcohol-free hand sanitizers contain something called quarternary ammonium compounds instead of alcohol. These sanitizers are also effective in reducing microbes but are less effective than alcohol.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also found to be effective at killing many types of bacteria, including MRSA and E coli and they can also prove effective against many viruses, including the influenza A virus, rhinovirus, hepatitis A virus, HIV, and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

A hand sanitizer should have at least 60% alcohol in order to kill most viruses as hand sanitizers with less than 60% alcohol were also found to be less effective against viruses.

Experts, however, maintain that even hand sanitizers containing 60% alcohol are ineffective against all types of germs and that’s why hand washing with soap is considered a more effective solution to check virus.