Informing Covid-19 preparedness in Sierra Leone | MIT News

With nearly half the year gone, countries around the globe are still struggling to get a grip over the novel Coronavirus pandemic. All leading medical institutions and researchers are leaving no stone unturned to find a vaccine or a cure to help control the situation. Currently, there are more than nine million confirmed cases of COVID-19 with close to half a million deaths. Until we have a vaccine that can make people immune to the virus, our best approach is to take precautionary measures to curb its spread. Based on what we know about the novel Coronavirus so far, people around the globe are practising social distancing, washing their hands frequently, and wearing face masks to avoid getting infected. Today, we will talk about the various ways in which this virus can spread apart from human contact.

How does the novel Coronavirus spread?

Just like the common cold, COVID-19 has been identified as a communicable disease. Hence, once a person gets infected, he can spread it to others in various ways. While coming in direct contact with such a person puts you at risk of getting infected, there are various non-human contact means of catching the infection too. While social media is abuzz with different kinds of tips on battling the disease, knowing the different ways in which the virus can infect people can help you take effective preventive measures.

We have collated a list of frequently asked questions to help you understand the different ways in which this virus can spread:

Q1. Are there any specific symptoms to identify if a person has COVID-19?

No. People who catch the novel Coronavirus can be classified into two groups:

  1. Those displaying symptoms like fever, cough, breathing problems, etc.
  2. Those displaying no symptoms at all or asymptomatic cases

Identifying asymptomatic cases is impossible. Also, since the symptoms can indicate a range of possible diseases, even those who display symptoms cannot be classified as COVID-19 patients. Hence, it is safe to assume that anyone can be a carrier of the virus and take precautions adequately.

Q2. What are the non-human contact ways of getting infected?

If a carrier of the virus (symptomatic or asymptomatic) touches an object after touching his mouth, nose, or eyes and you touch the same object within a few hours, then you can get infected. This includes a wide range of surfaces like cloth, tissue paper or any paper, money (paper), cardboard, glass and wooden surfaces, steel, plastic, etc. The number of hours for which the virus can stay on these surfaces can vary, as shown below:

SurfaceHow long the virus can survive
Cloth<= 2 days
Tissue paper or any paper<= 3 hours
Money (paper)<= 4 days
Glass<= 4 days
Wood<= 2 days
Cardboard<= 24 hours
Steel<= 7 days
Plastic<= 7 days

These are approximate time frames and can vary with changing humidity and heat of the place you reside in. Even if the time is less or more, it is important to remember that the virus can survive on the surfaces mentioned above. While researchers confirm that the virus can survive on these surfaces, the possibility of getting infected via these surfaces is yet unknown. 

Q3. What about the survival of the virus in the air (no surface at all)?

Even if there is no surface, the virus can survive in the air for up to two-three hours. So, even if there is no infected person around you, but a patient was in a room without a mask before you entered it, then you can get infected by simply breathing in the same air. Hence, wearing a mask is important to keep yourself protected.

Q4. Can the virus survive in water? What about groceries?

Currently, we have no study confirming that the novel Coronavirus can survive or spread through food or water. As far as groceries are concerned, ensure that you wash them thoroughly and sanitize your hands too.

What can you do to keep yourself protected?

Since the virus can spread through numerous surfaces and even air, the medical community has outlined certain precautionary measures that can help you stay protected:

  • Always wear a face mask that covers your nose and mouth
  • Keep your hands clean, especially when you are outside. Try to wash them with soap water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without sanitizing your hands.
  • When you meet anyone outside your family, ensure that you maintain a distance of at least six feet from him/her

Buy Health Insurance

Despite all the precautions, it is prudent to ensure that you can manage medical costs if you or a loved one catches the infection. Just to give you an idea, the treatment cost for a patient getting treated at a private hospital in India for COVID-19 can range from rupees five to seven lakhs without ventilator support. If the patient needs a ventilator, then the costs can double. Considering the economic slowdown due to the countrywide lockdown, these costs can burn into your savings. Hence, buying health insurance plans for yourself and your loved ones is essential. With the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) mandating all health insurance companies to include COVID-19 in insurance policies, all the major health insurers in India like Tata AIG are offering Coronavirus insurance now.

Summing Up

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this pandemic and the way it can spread or the precautions one can take to stay safe. Hence, it is important to ensure that you follow the instructions specified by the health authorities and provide your family with the financial protection for medical emergencies.