The panic of COVID-19 currently gripping parts of China and a few other countries could be hitting a lot closer to home very soon. CDC officials are warning that the coronavirus is likely to become a pandemic, which means there’s a good possibility it will make its way through the United States. Are you prepared to protect your home?
We offer the following not to induce panic because we can best protect ourselves by deploying clear action that's been well-conceived. Reduce the chances of contracting the coronavirus by keeping a safe distance from people while outside the home, by not touching your face and washing your hands frequently (and for 20-30 seconds) with soap and water. Disinfect surfaces using products containing 62% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide, or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite. (don't worry, we have details, below.) And when at home, run a humidifier to reduce the germ load in the air and improve lung defenses. Once they've been disinfected, keep surfaces sanitized and use an air purifier with a UV filter to further clean the air and reduce airborne transmission. Use hot water or a laundry sanitizer to keep from turning the washing machine into an infectious Petri dish. Let's break this down and look at the specifics for each.
When in Public
The quickest way to catch an airborne virus is to be around someone who’s infected. If you’re standing within 6 feet of someone sick with the COVID-19 coronavirus, for example, you could be standing too close, close enough to get sick. It might also be transmitted to those just passing through an area where an infected person has coughed or sneezed. Droplets containing the virus can infect us if we breathe them into our lungs, mouth or nose.
So here's what to do about that part: don’t touch your eyes or other parts of your face without washing your hands first, and this is especially true if you’ve touched any surfaces that could harbor the virus. A study on coronaviruses showed they could survive on surfaces for up to 9 days, and not all disinfectants will destroy them. So given the rapid spread of the illness, it's best to assume that every surface is host to these germs.
You can effectively clean surfaces using products containing 62% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide, or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (found in commercial cleaning agents).
We all know by now to wash our hands frequently and scrub them well with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time. If it helps, it takes about 20 seconds to sing the ABC song. This is a good method to teach kids. When sinks aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. And, of course, steer clear of anyone who looks or sounds congested—remember, six feet. It could just be a cold or allergies, but it might be something far worse and there's no sense in taking chances right now.
When at Home
There are two ways to catch an airborne virus at home: Someone in the household is sick, or the virus was brought in on someone. The best way to protect yourself on your own turf is to keep surfaces disinfected and the air as virus-free as possible. There are a few different ways to do this.
Breathe easier by keeping a humidifier in common areas. Raising room humidity to 45% can reduce the infectious viral load in the air by 52% within 15 minutes. Higher humidity levels can also improve the defenses in the lungs, increasing mucus function and immune response, which can make it more difficult for infections to take hold. Further improve air quality by adding an air purifier with a UV filter, which can kill not only viruses but also any bacteria and mold spores that don’t get filtered out.
If there’s a possibility that anyone in your household is sick, or even if someone in your house has tracked in the virus on their clothes, the washing machine could spread the illness to the whole family, unless you wash every load on hot or use a laundry sanitizer. The washer can spread the virus to other loads, too, and can even contaminate you while you’re moving “clean” laundry to the dryer.
A pandemic is likely on its way, and it’s up to us to be prepared. Be smart about germ exposure when going out, and make sure the surfaces and air in your home are as germ-free as possible. It also helps to keep the washing machine clean by using hot water or a sanitizer with every load. We can defend our home against many viruses by being conscientious, but we do need to be proactive and thorough to win the fight.