What is the ‘safe distance’ of droplets from point of sneeze and cough? And 8 more things you’re curious about COVID-19

By March 6, 2020Current, Featured

TL;DR – Is the virus airborne? Are thermo cameras effective? Should we still go out and socialise?

It’s been quite some weeks since the COVID-19 outbreak here in Singapore. While Singapore has been praised for our virus-fighting playbook, we still have not been able to ‘throw the virus out of the country completely’, not that it’s even possible.

Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong who co-chairs the COVID-19 inter-ministry taskforce together with Minister Lawrence Wong, has just told the media,

“While most infected patients will recover, some may become seriously ill, and a small number may succumb to the infection ultimately. We have to be prepared for the worst.”

Meanwhile, Minister Lawrence Wong, has said,

“Despite our best efforts, we have to be prepared for the infected numbers in Singapore to rise, as has happened elsewhere. As the virus spreads, it will become increasingly difficult to stop it at our borders. There are also likely to be many undetected cases in countries that are not doing proactive testing. We cannot isolate Singapore and shut ourselves from the world. So we will be exposed to new waves of infection.”

So fellow Singaporeans, we’re not out of the woods yet. But as Minister Wong has said,

“As border controls become less effective, we have to redouble our efforts within Singapore. We are not helpless in this scenario.”

 

 

Individual, social responsibility are important in our fight against COVID-19.

And we can start by understanding as much as we can about the virus and ensuring that we don’t consume, believe and spread fake news and misinformation.

Following their first release of FAQs on COVID-19 two weeks ago, the good people at WhiteCoat has followed out with a second edition of more FAQS on the virus. Here we go!

(Note that the original FAQs are pure text, so the links, images and videos were all added by yours truly, hence they do not represent WhiteCoat’s views, hurhur!)

February 2020 | FAQ Guide II:
Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Q1: How long can COVID-19 survive on different surfaces such as metal and clothing?

It is currently unknown exactly how long COVID-19 can linger on contaminated surfaces and objects with the potential to infect.

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A study compiling the results from 22 studies on the coronavirus shows that the virus can remain infectious from 2 hours to 9 days, depending on the material and the surrounding temperatures. However, results still remain inconclusive.

Q2: Is there medical evidence to suggest that the virus is airborne, and can continue to thrive in droplets in the atmosphere for an extended duration? What is the ‘safe distance’ of droplets from point of sneeze and cough?

There is currently no definitive evidence to confirm if the virus can be transmitted through air.

The main medium of transmission is still through respiratory droplets, which can travel up to 6 feet. Close contact with an infectious person such as shaking hands, touching the same surface, then touching your nose, eyes or mouth can transmit the virus.

Q3: Wouldn’t it be safer for everyone (healthy or otherwise) to wear masks to completely cut off any chance of virus transmission?

Contrary to popular opinion, there is little evidence to show that wearing surgical or N95 masks when well will protect an individual against COVID-19. Rather, it is more important and necessary for an individual who is unwell with respiratory symptoms to wear a mask so that they do not spread the infection to other people.

Ho Ching talks about ST Engg starting own mask production lines in Singapore, possibly as early as March

Q4: Many facilities now employ thermal cameras to measure a person’s temperature; is this technology effective?

Thermal cameras are effective only in detecting higher body temperatures in individuals who running a high fever. This does not necessarily mean the individual is infected with COVID-19. Since fever is a symptom of COVID-19, this method is able to filter out people with a high chance of infection.

Q5: Is thorough washing with regular soap and water an efficient mode of sanitising?

Washing your hands even with regular soap and water is still by far the best way to reduce your risk of avoiding picking up COVID-19. The way you wash your hands is very important too. Make sure to use soap, rub vigorously between fingers and around your hands and clean under fingernails as well.

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Q6: Aside from disinfectant sprays, are there other products that can help with effective sanitising of an area?

Many household cleaning products contain active ingredients that are effective to inactivate COVID-19. NEA has published a list of  recommended products that contain active ingredients in appropriate concentrations. Do note that in order for the product to be used to its full potential, it is important to follow the instructions and check the labels of each cleaning product before use.

NEA’s updated list of household products and active ingredients for disinfection of the COVID-19 virus

 

Q7: Is it possible that an infected person can be a carrier of COVID-19 but not display any symptoms?

Yes, it is possible for some individuals to be asymptomatic carriers of the infection. However, infectious diseases specialist Dr Leong Hoe Nam advises that these individuals with no symptoms are less likely to have nasal discharge or cough, and are hence much less likely to transmit the virus.

Infectious diseases physician, Dr Leong Hoe Nam, on what we need to know about 2019-Coronavirus

Q8: How far should we go to avoid group-based activities like exercise and social gatherings?

If you are feeling coughing or sneezing, or feeling generally unwell, you should avoid going out or keeping close contact with others. Consult a doctor immediately, or teleconsult one to eliminate contact with other patients, and rest at home. Wear a mask if you need to go out and practice good hygiene.

While it is still advisable to avoid crowded areas where possible, activities can still continue if proper hygiene is observed. You should, however, avoid sharing personal items with others. For instance, don’t share utensils and drinking glasses at mealtimes.

Q9: Are there measures we can take to boost our immunity system to fight off COVID-19, e.g. vitamins and supplements?

Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet, regardless of an epidemic or not, is important for maintaining a strong immune system. Getting the recommended daily doses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, macronutrients and water and exercising regularly, come hand in hand to strengthen your body to fight against infections. Inadequate intake of any of these may lead to reduced immunity.

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Supplementation is not necessary unless you are deficient in any of these nutrients or pregnant. Before making any drastic changes to your diet or starting large supplementations, do consult a certified dietitian who will be able to advise you on what you should or should not be consuming.

And here’s the FAQ I in case you’ve missed it,

The doctors at WhiteCoat answer everything you’ve been dying to ask about COVID-19

 

About WhiteCoat

WhiteCoat is a digital healthcare provider offering tele-medicine video consultations via an on-demand mobile platform known as the WhiteCoat App. Such services are provided in a regulatory sandbox with the Ministry of Health of Singapore.

Their staff doctors are able to assist patients with (i) common primary healthcare symptoms and related signs; (ii) chronic disease management; (iii) travel medication advice; (iv) discussions on laboratory results; and (v) advice regarding sexual health or contraception. Where appropriate, their staff doctors may through the WhiteCoat App (a) prescribe medication and/or (b) provide a medical certificate and/or a medical referral letter.

With regard to chronic disease management, they are able to prescribe medication for hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and such other secondary diseases which may arise from such chronic disease conditions.

Now available 7 days a week: Mon – Sun, 8AM to 12AM (including PHs)

Source: WhiteCoat’s official site

Check out their latest Facebook video here!

 

(Featured image via)

 

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Maggie O

Author Maggie O

Digital extrovert. Social introvert (warning: 93% introverted!) In the day, I work at the labour movement to put cai-png on the table and ice-cream in the fridge. In the night, I read a lot and write a little. Also, all views expressed in my contribution pieces here are based on my personal opinions, and they do not reflect the ideas, ideologies, or points of view of my employer (past, current and future).

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