Washing hands. CHECK. What else can I do to protect myself from COVID-19.

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I’d like to reach through the monitor and slap the next TV personality or doctor who reminds us to wash our hands. Yes, we get it. Now what else?

I’m going to lay out some very simple and obvious tips here in TL:DR format and then go back over the details below that with links to sources.

  • If you don’t want to get infected: be where the virus isn’t. Don’t think you can go out in public and be lucky enough to dodge the virus. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is 125 nanometers in diameter. YOU WON’T SEE IT COMING.
  • Yes, wash your hands. But also
    • Clean any surfaces you may have come in contact with before you washed your hands: purse, walet,  door knobs, water faucets, credit cards, YOUR PHONE, etc.
  • Yes, you can get the virus into your eyes and then eventually into your respiratory tract. If you want to go next level on your PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) then at least wear glasses, or better yet wear goggles. Yes, you may look stupid, but looking stupid never killed anyone.

But if you do become infected, what now?

You must self isolate, but that doesn’t mean just locking yourself into a room until you’re recovered, plus at least seven extra days.

When you cough you expel some of the virus. (Research shows that normal breathing expels the SARS-CoV-2 virus, especially in the few days preceding symptoms)  That’s a good thing, provided no one else comes in contact with the virus your shedding. Your body gives you the urge to cough so that you’ll expel some of the virus mechanically, which reduces the work the on your immune system. That’s because every single individual virion (virus particle) must be accounted for. Your not all better until every virion is gone. If you can shed those virions mechanically, via a cough, then that’s just a little less work for your immune system to do.

Remember, your immune system is in a race to eliminate the virus faster than the virus can replicate. If your immune system loses this race, you die.

Suppose your isolating yourself alone in a room. Good for you. Now when you breath/cough you won’t get anyone else sick, hopefully. But here’s the thing I have to stress: once you expel some of the virus you want to make sure it stays expelled. Don’t think, “I’m alone in my room so I can cough into my hand and then touch my face and it’s all okay because I’m already sick.” No, you just put virions right back into your body for your immune system to deal with.

Even if you’re self isolating you should pretend that someone you love is in the room with you all the time and you don’t want to get them sick. When you cough you should cough into a tissue and then dispose of that tissue. Make sure the virions on that tissue don’t come back to you or anyone else.

If you can you should make sure your room is well ventilated with outside air. You definitely don’t want your air ventilating into the other rooms — cover your vent if you have to. Your bedding is going to end up covered in virions so wash them as often as you can. Shower as often as you can. Disinfect every surface you can as often as you can.

I’ve heard from multiple sources that gargling with warm/hot saltwater is effective for viral infections in general. It sure can’t hurt. Personally, (meaning I don’t know if this is effective or not but it’s what I’ve always done) I use hot water, mouthwash, and hydrogen peroxide in my WaterPik multiple times a day. I want to make sure that any virions that make it up to my mouth are killed. Again, anything you can do to lessen the stress on your immune system the better off you’ll be.

You put that toothbrush where?

Do you share your toothbrush with anyone else? Of course not. I can’t think of a more disgusting thing — that’s not true, I just did, but let’s not go there. You wouldn’t share your toothbrush with anyone else, but you share it with yourself. You just put it in your mouth a few hours ago and scrubbed it all around. Wash it like satan himself last used it. Important: SARS-CoV-2 can hang out on plastics for days. You think it wouldn’t love your toothbrush?

Well Shit

That brings us to feces. Yes, some of the the SARS-CoV-2 virus will get pooped out. And it won’t all end up going down the toilet. That’s because toilets aerate when you flush. Some of the toilet water escapes into the air. (It’s very splashy in there when you flush.) So close the lid and then flush. Better yet, drape a towel over the toilet, then close the lid, then flush. You don’t want that shit getting out of there. And wash that towel often.

Now for the technical stuff

Everything I wrote above is extrapolated from scientific research. If you want some of the details then read on.

Numbers Matter

Let’s start with some scientifically basic truths. A study has shown that a single virion can cause an infection. Obviously, the higher the dosage of the virus the more likely you are to become ill.

Virions aren’t alive; they have no means of locomotion; nor do they have any senses. Each individual virion just goes with the flow.

If it happens to find itself inside your respiratory tract, and then happens to land on just the right type of tissue, and doesn’t get gobbled up by the immune system along the way, then it rolls along the surface of a cell and its key just happens to line up with the cellular lock on the outer membrane of a cell and be able to inject its genetic information into the cell where the cell, oblivious to the origin of the genetic information, does what it does and starts following the instructions to make more copies of the virus. This continues until the cell ruptures, spilling the newly minted virions out into the cellular matrix.

How many virions does a cell create before it bursts?

I was unable to find specific information about this on COVID-19, but the Influenza-A virus is estimated to create about 6,000 new virions per cell. This is how an infection grows rapidly in your body. It’s important to remember that a virus doesn’t make you feel sick. Your immune system is what makes you feel sick. According to the WHO:

Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days.

Translation:

COVID-19 is reproducing unchecked during that time.

You don’t feel symptoms because your immune system is oblivious to the fact that anything is wrong. As soon as your immune system catches on that there’s an infection then it kicks into action and you start to feel sick.

What’s crucial with COVID-19 is that an infected person is shedding the virus before they feel sick.

From Scientific American: COVID-19: How and Why the Virus Spreads Quickly

In a preprint article published on March 18th, researchers with the World Health Organization studied 94 COVID-19 patients in Guangzhou, China to determine when they became infectious—and when they stopped shedding the virus. … overall, the patients tended to become less infectious as their symptoms progressed. … Through some calculations, the scientists concluded that these coronavirus patients shed the most virus, and were probably most infectious to others, up to two days before they started feeling ill.

How many virions you’re exposed to matters

It should be obvious that if you’re exposed to a single droplet of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that contains, for the sake of argument let’s say, 100 individual virions, then your chances of becoming infected are significantly lower than if you’re dosed with 10,000 individual virions. A lot has to go right for an individual virion for it to get into a cell and start replicating. I couldn’t find any scientific documentation on the probability of an individual virion succeeding and doubt that there is a definitive answer to this question at present. But whatever the probability is, it’s exceptionally low, otherwise we’d all be dead a long time ago.

This is also why healthcare providers are dying at an alarming rate from COVID-19. They are in a dense environment of viruses. They’re not just getting a little, they’re getting a lot. And that’s enough to kill even healthy people. As of March 23rd, 2020 23 Italian doctors have died in coronavirus epidemic. (Sadly, I can’t find numbers for nurses, but the same report states that 3,559 healthcare works have become infected and presumably they wore PPEs.)

 

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