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Category Archives: Covid-19

Social Distancing Explained

In the battle against the highly infectious COVID-19 virus, social distancing is extremely important to help curb the spread of this disease across the country.

The term “social distancing” basically means one needs to keep their distance from others. This includes avoiding public spaces such as malls, the work place, and of course, social events as well as recreational areas where others usually gather.

One needs to avoid handshakes, hugs and other forms of direct contact as well as keeping a distance of at least two metres from others.

This practice is particularly important while we are in the midst of the Coronavirus epidemic where the virus spreads from person to person via an infected person passing droplets through sneezing or coughing or by coming into contact with surfaces where the virus has been transmitted.

There are various examples of social distancing that worked in curbing the rate of disease transmission, with one of the earliest and most notable examples going as far back as 350 years ago during the Black Plague.

The plague ended up killing around 100,000 people in total. However, there is a little town in the United Kingdom that was praised for its commitment to social distancing and quarantine and has been credited with keeping the disease from spreading to larger surrounding towns.

According to an article from Historic UK by Victoria Masson, written in 2016, the small British village isolated itself from the rest of the country for 14 months and through this, was able to contain the spread of the disease.

A boundary wall was set up around the outskirts of the village and it was guarded by watchmen to ensure no one ventured outside the town’s limits. Watchmen also ensured people stayed in their own homes whilst food and water was left by some   neighboring villages near the outskirts of the town when the villagers ran short of supplies.

One only has to look up the village online to see how effective they were in containing the spread of the disease without the use of modern medicine and protective equipment and the village’s decision has been said to have made a significant impact on the medical understanding of social distancing and quarantining.

The implementation of social distancing and quarantine in South Africa is essential in flattening the curve, which is indicated by the number of infectious people dropping.

We can learn many lessons from past pandemics and how they were handled. While many people may be frustrated by the current lockdown, it is vital in keeping South Africans, especially our more vulnerable communities, safe.

Staying indoors, significantly limiting your contact with other people and avoiding public spaces will leave many South Africans feeling helpless, restless and even angry. However, if we decide to ignore the calls of government for isolation, social distancing and quarantine, we will see the spread of the virus and the full devastation it wreaks in our country.

By Chelsea Pieterse
Freelance Journalist


How to Actually Comply With the Don’t-Touch-Your-Face Advice From Health Experts

If you’ve been heeding the advice of health officials lately, you’ve probably been washing your hands a lot, keeping your distance from others and crafting a homemade face cover to wear if you need to go out.

You’ve probably also become woefully aware of just how often you rub your eyes, itch your nose or bite your nails.

Health experts recommend that you avoid touching your face because it can potentially protect you from infection. While the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is believed to be spread mostly by inhaling droplets released when an infected individual coughs or sneezes, these droplets can also land on surfaces. If you touch an infected surface with your hand and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth — which are also entryways for viruses into your body — you could potentially become infected and get sick.

But not touching your face is easier said than done. Here’s some advice on breaking the habit.

Step one: awareness

Hand-face contact happens often throughout the day — most of the time without us even realizing it. One study of medical students found that participants touched their faces some 23 times an hour, and nearly half of those instances involved their eyes, nose or mouth.

“Most likely it’s an unconscious or even nervous behavior, like twirling your hair,” says behavioral health clinical therapist Karen Tucker, LISW-S, ACSW.

So the first step to keeping your hands away from your face is simply becoming aware of when and how you do it. You might try to:

  • Observe others: Noticing how and when others touch their face might cue you in to your own habits. Does your child rest their chin in the palm of their hand whenever they’re bored? Are you doing the same?
  • Use a scented hand soap or lotion, or wear a little perfume: If your hands or wrists smell, you might be more likely to notice when you’re about to touch your face and can reverse course.

Step two: trade in the habit

Once you become aware of your face-touching habits, changing them can take time and patience.

Here are some hands-off strategies to try.

  • Wear a face mask: The CDC now recommends that Americans wear a homemade face cover if they go out in public. This can protect you in multiple ways, one being that it makes it harder for you to touch your mouth and nose.
  • Keep your hands busy: When you’re not up and about, find something to fiddle with at your desk to keep your hands occupied, like a stress ball, fidget spinner or rubber band.
  • Change your position: If you’re sitting at a desk or table, avoid putting your elbows on the table. Instead, place your hands underneath you, or fold them in your lap, so you have to do more work to bring them up to your face.
  • Be prepared with alternatives: Keep tissues nearby that you can use if you have an itch or need to wipe your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Keep washing your hands and social distancing: Even with a concerted effort, you’re probably never going to completely stop touching your face. But if you’re keeping a safe distance from others and keeping your hands clean, that’s not such a big deal. So hand-washing and social distancing remain your first lines of defense.



“WASH Coronavirus Away” Poster

This printable poster can be used to help raise awareness of key times for handwashing with soap to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is designed for all audiences and can be downloaded for free through GHP’s resource hub. This poster is available in English, French, and Spanish.

Resource Attachments: (pdf) (pdf) (pdf)



Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public

Basic protective measures against the new coronavirus

Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the WHO website and through your national and local public health authority. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:

Wash your hands frequently

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

Maintain social distancing

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

Why? 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.

Practice respiratory hygiene

Make sure you, and the people around you, 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.

Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

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.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider

Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.

Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading

  • Follow the guidance outlined above.
  • Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.
  • If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers. Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.



Why soap, sanitizer and warm water work against Covid-19 and other viruses

(CNN)Tired of washing your hands for 20 seconds each time? Fingers starting to prune or feel like sandpaper?Please don’t stop.The world is counting on you to help stop the spread of Covid-19, the deadly new disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.

Take heart that while you’re scrubbing, you’re also killing off a host of other nasty bacteria and potentially lethal viruses that have plagued humans for centuries — including influenza and a number of different coronaviruses.”There are four coronaviruses that circulate in humans regularly, almost every year,” said virologist Dr. John Williams, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.”And they mainly cause colds; in fact, they cause about a third of common colds. They don’t kill people,” he added.Coronaviruses aren’t the only nasty parasites that succumb to a vigorous application of soap and water. Influenza — which kills millions around the world each year — and the human metapneumovirus, which causes a respiratory infection that can lead to pneumonia, also break down and die.

How did such a simple thing as soap and warm water — and alcohol-based sanitizers — obtain such power over these parasites?The answer lies in their “skin” and your scrubbing technique.

What soap and warm water do

Under the microscope, coronaviruses appear to be covered with pointy spires, giving them the appearance of having a crown or “corona” — hence the name. Beneath the crown is the outer layer of the virus, which is made up of lipids, or what you and I would call fat.Now imagine that coronavirus is your butter dish, covered with buttery fat.”You try to wash your butter dish with water alone, but that butter is not coming off the dish,” Williams explained. “You need some soap to dissolve grease. So soap or alcohol are very, very effective against dissolving that greasy liquid coating of the virus.”What does getting rid of that outer layer do to the germ?”It physically inactivates the virus, so it can’t bind to and enter human cells anymore,” Wllliams said.

Just how soap accomplishes this feat is rather strange and fascinating science.It’s all about how soap molecules are formed — each looks much like a tiny sperm, with a head and tail. The head bonds with water but the tail rejects it, preferring oil and fat.Frantically trying to escape water, the tail of the soap is drawn to the fatty outer layer of the virus and begins to pry it open, much like we might use a crowbar to separate two pieces of wood.Once the virus or bacteria splits open, it spills its guts into the soapy water and dies.Water and scrubbing with your hands are important to this process because the combination creates more soap bubbles, which disrupt the chemical bonds that allow bacteria, viruses and other germs to stick to surfaces.You want to scrub, build up bubbles and scrub some more, getting into every crack and crevice of your hands and fingers, including your fingernails, for 20 seconds, which is about as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. (But if you’re tired of that ditty, there are songs from every decade you can sing instead.)

Now, when you rinse your hands, all the germs that have been hurt, trapped or killed by soap molecules are washed away.”All those bubbles and foam … literally pick germs up and wash them down the drain,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine and infectious disease at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.You often hear that the water you wash with should be warm, but why? After all, even hot water does not kill bacteria or viruses until you get to a temperature that would scald the skin.”Cold water will work, but you have to make sure you work really vigorously to get a lather and get everything soapy and bubbly,” said chemist Bill Wuest, an associate professor at Emory University who studies disinfectants.To do that, you might need to sing “Happy Birthday” three times instead of two.”Warm water with soap gets a much better lather, more bubbles,” Wuest said. “It’s an indication that the soap is … trying to encapsulate the dirt and the bacteria and the viruses in them.”

What alcohol-based sanitizers do

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be as effective as soap if they are used properly, Schaffner explained.

“They need to have at least 60% alcohol in them,” Schaffner said. “It’s the alcohol that’s the virus killer.”Just putting a little dollop in the palm of your hand and wiping quickly isn’t good enough, Schaffner said.”You’ve got to use enough and get it all over the surfaces,” he said. “Rub it all over your hands, between your fingers and on the back of your hands.””That’s because alcohol is a different chemical property,” Wuest said. “It helps break up the germ membranes, but you need to make sure it gets into direct contact with the bacteria or virus.”But there are situations in which soap and water are best, Williams said, because of the ability of soap and water to trap and wash microorganisms away.

“Alcohol is pretty effective at killing germs, but it doesn’t wash away stuff,” he said. “So you know, if somebody’s just sneezed into their hand, and their hand is covered with mucus, they would have to use a lot more alcohol to inactivate that bacteria or virus.”So if somebody’s hands are visibly or grossly contaminated, soap and water are better,” Williams said.That’s especially important because there are nasty germs and bacteria out there that don’t have soft, fatty bellies that soap bubbles can attack — such as hepatitis A virus, poliovirus, meningitis and pneumonia.So the next time you wash your hands for the umpteenth time, take pride in all those soapy bubbles you’re creating — and enjoy the pleasure of imagining those microscopic, dead creatures circle the drain.


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