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Microbiologist shares top tips on how we can avoid catching Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses
Freedom Day - a day many of us had been anticipating for a long time, whether that would have been a sense of excitement or fear. It was a turning point in our relationship with the virus but unfortunately Covid won't disappear overnight as the restrictions have. There is still plenty we should do to minimise our risk of catching the virus or spreading it to other people. Val Edwards-Jones, microbiologist, gives her opinion:
"It's important to think about the likelihood of bumping into someone who is infectious. We are at very high numbers of cases even though they are starting to flatten a little, I'd still recommend being cautious, especially within crowded areas.
I think there will definitely be another increase in case numbers come September so we are going to get a lot of confusion with flu and other respiratory illnesses (which is our normal seasonal rise) and you're going to see Covid cases go up as well as everything else. And whether that's going to be the original Covid variant or the new delta variant, we'll have to wait and see.
The virus is still mutating and we know the vaccine isn't 100% effective so we are going to get people slipping through the loopholes. There are massive numbers of people (that are vaccinated at the moment - I think it's something like 50 million have been double jabbed), but if the vaccines are only 96% efficient, that means two million may not have any immunity and could still be susceptible to infection.
To help navigate this new, unrestricted world, here are some tips on how best to protect ourselves and others around us:
There's still a lot to learn about the virus but we do know that there are some precautions that we can take to help slow the spread of the disease. Continue with good hygiene principals - face, space, washing your hands. I think those three are very sensible approaches that can easily be continued and of course try to avoid going into crowded areas if you possibly can.
1. Be mindful of high touch surfaces
Covid has made us all more aware of how often we should clean our hands and the surfaces around us. Cleaning certain types of surfaces more frequently than others is particularly important, especially in the workplace where multiple people may contaminate surfaces and be exposed to the virus. These areas are commonly referred to as 'high touch surfaces' so we should apply good hygiene principles at all times.
High touch surfaces are those that people frequently touch with their hands, which could therefore become easily contaminated and contaminants picked up by others on their hands. Whether you're in the office, school, restaurant, or shop, there are many common high touch surfaces that you should be aware of. Below are a few examples of high touch surfaces in public places and personal possessions.
- Work surfaces and equipment - desks, keyboards, phones, monitors, and printers
- Communal spaces - door handles, railings, light switches, lifts, windows, and bannisters
- Surfaces in bathroom facilities - toilets, sinks, flush handles, hand dryers, and sinks
- Kitchen appliances - kettles, fridges, microwaves, and cupboards
- Equipment and tools - card machines, control panels, delivery boxes, and water coolers
- Mobile phones - More than 80% of the common bacteria that makes up our personal bacterial 'fingerprints' end up on mobile screens, a study suggests [i]
- Remote controls - When it isn't in germy hands, it's either on the floor or stuck between cushions, back-rest etc. - a cosy, dark home for mould and bacteria
- Toothbrush holders - This spot has one of the highest bacteria readings of anything you touch
- Money - Researchers found that most money notes are covered in 3,000 types of bacteria[ii]
Germs are everywhere so I'd recommend having a good quality hand sanitiser in your bag and using it multiple times throughout the day. Something like Clinell Gel Hand Sanitiser. It's ideal for quickly and easily disinfecting hands on the go. It is clinically proven to be as effective as washing with soap and water, great when you've no access to a sink.
- This hand sanitising gel is effective against a wide range of bacteria and viruses
- Fast-acting, easy-dry sanitiser gel instantly sanitises hands
- Includes aloe vera and glycerine to create a formula which is kinder to skin with no stickiness
- Includes alcohol and biocides to kill any unwanted micro-organisms
- Trusted by healthcare professionals
2. Ensure surfaces are wiped down properly
Studies have shown that wipes are the most effective method of surface cleaning to kill bacteria, remove particles, residue and dirt.
I do think a lot of people have dropped the whole concept of food hygiene and sanitising. A lot of people's mind-sets have been 'I've had Covid before' or 'I've been double vaccinated' but the people that are vulnerable are still vulnerable unfortunately.
Because of Covid, we've all learnt really good practice. Not just to reduce the effect of Covid but all of the other diseases we routinely pick up from surfaces from people not washing their hands and from sneezing over surfaces. The common cold and the flu that we can get in the winter months - if we continue doing things like wearing masks in heavily populated areas, washing our hands and keeping surfaces clean, that will help prevent a spike of other illnesses, not just Covid.
It's important to continue with these hygiene practices as one of the things we've seen is a huge reduction in childhood diseases and there are a lot of reports into investigations into childhood diseases during the Covid period. They show that numbers of cases of meningitis and respiratory diseases are right down, and that's all caused by respiratory transmission and surface transmission.
3. Invest in good quality wipes
When it comes to cleaning, I'd recommend some good wipes for the house and office such as Clinell Universal Wipes. They are easy to use - a single-step detergent and disinfectant. The wipes clean and disinfect in a single step by killing at least 99.99% of pathogens in 10 seconds.
Just remember that when cleaning surfaces, you shouldn't go round in circles as you just wipe the organisms about, instead go in an S shape slowly to ensure you don't overlap and you are allowing time for the chemicals to kill the bacteria.
- Effective against a wide range of bacteria and viruses
- Working fast and effective, proven to kill bacteria from 10 seconds in dirty conditions
- These cleaning and disinfectant wipes are non-corrosive, alcohol-free and bleach-free making them suitable for use on all household surfaces. Safe to use to disinfect children's toys.
- Safe on all washable surfaces, can be used without gloves. Non bleaching
- Multipurpose wipes for the bathroom, kitchen, rest of building and car/fleet, ideal to clean and disinfect all surfaces and equipment
4. Continue wearing masks in high populated areas
Despite being told it's not mandatory to wear masks, many still advise to wear them in compacted areas such as in queues or on the tube to minimise the risk of catching Covid. Many people with weakened immune systems can still be left unsafe.
Before the pandemic, in February 2020, I began making 'EveryCloudSPFace Coverings' silver-impregnated face masks for friends and family, before WHO guidance on triple-layer face masks was issued. I knew they would offer the protection needed for the impending coronavirus pandemic. I began making over 1,000 masks on a sewing machine, before deciding to go into business with it and having them made professionally.
I still recommend we wear masks in crowded areas as after all they help to reduce the risk of the wearer passing the virus on to others. For many of us, this idea of doing something for the collective good seems fair and reasonable, after all, they are doing the same for us.
5. Be vigilant
Let's be ultra-vigilant. I'm not saying we should be wearing masks at all times but I think with better hygiene and better practices we can keep things reduced.
Let's always put our good hygiene practices into place, especially as winter is just around the corner, meaning flu season is on the horizon. However if we can still wear masks in busy places such as food shops, washing our hands more frequently, using hand sanitiser when out and about and cleaning surfaces with good quality wipes, this will help us to prevent spikes of illnesses and protect vulnerable people at risk."
Clinell sanitiser gel: https://gamahealthcare.com/products/hand-sanitising-gels-range
Clinell wipes: https://gamahealthcare.com/products/universal-range
2nd September 2021