Washing purchases or avoiding closed places: what is more important?

With the evolution of the new coronavirus pandemic, we learned that we need to disinfect surfaces, such as shoes and market purchases, among other objects. It turns out that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their surface cleaning guidelines in the first half of April.

After observing that the chance of contracting the coronavirus when touching a contaminated surface was less than one in 10,000. According to experts, the respiratory label is much more important in preventing infection by the new coronavirus than surface cleaning.

Use of a mask points out to be more important than cleaning surfaces.Use of a mask points out to be more important than cleaning surfaces.Source: Pixabay

Although it is possible to catch the virus that causes Covid-19 through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects, the latest tests showed that the risk of transmission through this route is very low, according to Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, in an interview with New York Times.

Why do we focus on surface transmission?

At the beginning of the pandemic, many experts believed that the coronavirus spread through droplets expelled in processes such as breathing, speech, coughing and sneezing. These droplets are heavy to travel long distances in the air, but they can fall on objects and surfaces – so it was necessary to clean everything.

However, evidence collected throughout 2020 points out that the coronavirus is not only spread by large droplets, but also by small particles, aerosols, which can remain suspended in the air for hours.

The popularization of the need to sanitize objects ended up creating a kind of “hygiene theater”, a term coined by journalist Derek Thompson to refer to ineffective measures to contain the virus that give a false sense of security. For example, an office that offers gel alcohol at the entrance, but does not have adequate ventilation or allows people to remove their masks, even for short periods of time. It is the famous “we are following all security protocols”.

Cleaning surfaces is more Cleaning surfaces is more “visual”, according to an expert.Source: Pixabay

For Vitor Mori, a biomedical engineer who is a member of the Covid-19 BR Observatory, this theater happens because “disinfecting is more visual” – he said in a recent interview with the BBC. The specialist, who is also a researcher at the University of Virmond, said that the most effective measures to combat the new coronavirus are: stay at home whenever possible; prioritize outdoor or well-ventilated environments; maintain physical distance and use efficient masks well adjusted to the face in public places.

We’re paying attention to the wrong thing

Shelly Miller, an aerosol specialist at the University of Colorado, USA, said in an interview with the newspaper O Globo, that there is no point in disinfecting surfaces and even people when the problem is in the air. “Viruses are emitted through activities that spread respiratory droplets, such as talking, breathing and coughing. In addition, disinfectant sprays are generally made of toxic chemicals that can affect indoor air quality and human health, ”he said.

Closed and poorly ventilated environments are potential sources of airborne transmission.Closed and poorly ventilated environments are potential sources of airborne transmission.Source: Pixabay

Since July 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been warning about the danger of airborne transmission of the new coronavirus in crowded, closed, or poorly ventilated environments. In February 2021, the organization published a roadmap (available in English) to improve and ensure good ventilation indoors in the context of Covid-19.

Epidemiologist Adélia Marçal dos Santos told the BBC that the difficulty in admitting airborne transmission of the virus has made it difficult to contain the disease worldwide. And he warned that hand hygiene and products that will be touched during food preparation and ingestion must be maintained, as the practice protects not only Covid-19, but several infectious diseases. However, she points out that these precautions alone are not enough to prevent the transmission of the new coronavirus.

Washing your hands frequently is still necessary.Washing your hands frequently is still necessary.Source: Pixabay

“Workers are living in spaces that have never taken care of respiratory safety. Adaptation is expensive – unless we have innovations, which is possible – and few companies will be able (to make the investment) after the impact of the pandemic itself”, he concludes. the epidemiologist.

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