Let’s learn about how respiratory infections, like COVID-19, are transmitted and what actions you can take to prevent the spread of infections.
A virus is a tiny infectious agent that is too small to be seen with the human eye or even under a normal microscope. They can only replicate and multiply if inside a living organism such as a human, animal, or plant which acts as the host.
Respiratory viruses like to infect the lungs and airways.
Respiratory infections tend to affect the normal function of the lungs causing breathing problems.
COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
The new coronavirus is spread from one person to another primarily through respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
According to recent reports, it may be possible that people infected with the novel coronavirus spread the virus before showing significant symptoms.
Some patients with confirmed infections with the novel coronavirus have shown little to no symptoms while others have become severely ill and died. Symptoms of infection include Fever, cough, and shortness of breath. At this time, it is believed that symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 and in some cases 27 days after exposure.
Scientists are working hard to understand this new virus and produce a vaccine. Antibiotics do not work against viruses; they only work on bacterial infections. Therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention.
Modes of Transmission
Droplet transmission happens WHEN AN INFECTED PERSON coughs, sneezes, or talk, and tiny drops from the infected person enter another person's eyes, nose, and mouth.
Contact transmission occurs when there is physical contact with an infected person or a contaminated object and another person.
This can happen in tow way:
Direct contact: where the infection travels to another person through touch as shaking hand for example.
Indirect contact: when a person touches contaminated objects with COVID-19.
The COVID-19 virus can be transmitted through contact when an infected person coughs, the droplets landing in on an object and surfaces, ground, etc. when another person touches these surfaces, their hand can get contaminated with the virus; in case he touched his eyes, nose, and mouth, with the contaminated hands, he can get infected.
Airborne transmission of the virus happens when small particles in the air containing the virus are inhaled into a person’s respiratory system. These infected particles can live in the air for a long period, which leads to the spread of the virus.
Researches have shown that the virus can remain viable in the air for up to 3 hours, maybe longer.
What is a Chain of Infection?
A chain of infection refers to the path that viruses take to enter a person and to be transmitted from one person to another.
There are six steps in the chain of infection and we know that transmission will only take place if all six elements in the chain are present.
but, we can break the ice and say: we can break the chain!
Do you ever wonder about how you got ill?
In order for an infection or disease to happen, six elements must be in place. This process is known as the chain of infection.
The first element in the chain is an infectious agent, which can cause disease. It could be a virus, bacteria, or fungi.
The second element is the reservoir or the place where the infectious agent lives. It can be a person, an animal, soil or water. Then we have a port of exit, which is the way the agent leaves the body. This can happen through the mouth, if a person coughs or sneezes, through a cut, if a person is bleeding, during diaper changes or toileting.
The next element is the mode of transmission, which is how the infectious agent is transmitted from one person to another. It can be in the form of droplets, direct or indirect contact, or through airborne transmission.
The fifth element in the chain of infection is the port of entry or the place where the infectious agent enters another person’s body. This is similar to the port of exit, it can be a mouth, nose, eyes, an open cut, etc.
Finally, we have a susceptible host – it’s either a baby, an elderly person or someone with a weakened immune system.
To prevent the spread of the disease, one of the links in the chain of infection must be broken.
Can we break the chain of infection?
Yes, we can! Each and every one of us can do our part to slow and stop COVID-19 from spreading.
In fact, you’re doing something right now – by knowing the fact how it happens, to help you and your community Break the Chain!
How to Protect and Prevent
Now, let’s learn about how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones through simple and practical changes to our daily behaviors and routines.
- Practicing good hand hygiene (handwashing).
- Cough and sneeze etiquette.
- Cleaning and disinfecting our environments.
- Practicing social distancing.
Washing my Hands - Does It Really Work?
Yes! Washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent you or someone you know from getting infected.
Washing your hands frequently helps to remove potentially harmful microorganisms from your hands. And this helps stop the spread of infection.
The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends washing your hands by following the steps shown in the image below.
What about Hand Sanitizer?
When you don’t have access to soap and water, using hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol is a great way to ensure your hands are clean.
The image below shows how to use hand sanitizer correctly. You should follow the same steps you do when washing your hands.
However, the best way to ensure sparkly clean hands is still by using soap and water for 20 seconds.
Droplets from coughs and sneezes flying far! This is why we must practice cough and sneeze etiquette.
These simple steps can help to reduce the spread of COVID-19
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and dispose of the tissue immediately.
- If you do not have a tissue, sneeze into your elbow rather your hand.
- Wash your hands with soap and water immediately.
Cleaning Your Everyday Environment
How many times a day do you touch your phone? The steering wheel of your car? The doorknobs in your home?
Now think, how many times have you cleaned those surfaces?
To break the chain and prevent infection, it is important to be more mindful about the surfaces we touch and to keep those surfaces clean.
There are a number of ways to keep your surfaces clean and disinfected. And you probably already have some of these ways in the house!
Do you have bleach in the house? Follow this recipe:
You can also use a regular household disinfectant or using an alcohol spray of at least 60% alcohol. Both can be purchased at any grocery store.
don’t forget to clean your cell phone!
Social distancing is a public health measure known to help stop or slow the spread of infectious diseases. This is especially important with COVID-19 because even those who do not show signs of illness may be sick and can spread the virus.
Ways to social distance include:
- Closing schools and moving to distance learning
- Working from home
- Postponing or canceling social events and travel
- Maintaining a physical distance of at least 2 meters between other people
If we stay at home and limit contact with others, we will slow the spread of COVID-19.
Do I need to wear a face mask?
No doubt you have seen pictures or even people walking around wearing surgical or protective N95 masks.
While this might seem like a good idea, wearing a mask in many cases does more harm than good to you and your community.
Healthcare workers are the only people who can help us get better when we are sick. Because of the current shortage of face masks in the world, healthcare workers are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. If healthcare workers get sick, there will be no one to take care of the sick people, and COVID-19 may continue to spread.
So…do you need to wear a mask? The answer to this question for most people is No.
When to wear a mask...
As you understand now, you can help to be part of the solution by urging others not to buy masks or protective gloves for their own use. These are a limited resource, desperately needed by our healthcare workers and the sick.
You should only wear a mask if:
- You are a healthcare caring giver for potentially sick patients.
- You are sick or are caring for a family member who is sick.
- You are instructed to do so by your doctor or healthcare provider.
You will now learn about the different types of masks and how to correctly put on and remove a surgical mask
What is an N95 Mask?
An N95 mask is specially designed to filter airborne particles.
It needs to be fitted properly to ensure its effectiveness.
Purpose: Prevent inhalation of airborne particles (that may contain infectious agents).
Usage: When there is air pollution such as haze, caused by minute particles in the atmosphere.
N95 masks are recommended for healthcare workers.
What Is a Surgical Mask?
A surgical mask has 3 layers (3-ply) which serve different functions:
Outer layer - fluid-repelling;
Middle layer - a barrier to microorganism entry; and
Inner layer - moisture-absorbing.
Purpose: Provide barrier protection against droplets including large respiratory particles.
Usage: Protect both residents and healthcare professionals against possible respiratory infection
Surgical masks are recommended for those who have infections or those looking after close contacts with infection at home.