What You Need To Know About Coronavirus

There is a lot of misinformation starting to gather steam about Covid-19, so I thought I'd break it down into small bites to better grasp what it is and how to handle it.

Covid-19 is part of a larger family of Coronaviruses, which also includes the common cold. Its telltale "corona" is what puts it into that family.

What makes it particularly dangerous is that this one took everyone by surprise, and a lot of people got sick and died before they realized there was a problem. There's panic in Asia and the Middle East. I'm starting to see it here now, so let's dissect our options and current findings before jumping to conclusions.

Currently, a lot of people are rushing to buy masks and disinfectants. Here's what I've learned so far.

Masks: The N-95 mask is still the preferred mask for health care professionals working with infected patients. It keeps out 95% of particles, but only if you fit them properly. It must mold around your mouth and nose snugly. If it doesn't, it's not doing you much good.

There's been a run on these masks so you'll be lucky to find them anywhere. I was unlucky enough to use up the last of our N-95 masks last year while I was mucking the chicken coop. (I always wear a mask in dusty environments because I'm prone to respiratory infections.

Also, remember that infected droplets can also be carried through the eyes. You can get just as infected if you're wearing a mask, but no eye protection.

Any mask though does two things:
  1. If you're sick, it prevents you from sneezing or coughing on anyone and spreading the virus.
  2. It keeps you from touching your nose and mouth which is the best way for the virus to enter the lungs.
Virus particles can travel up to 6 feet from a cough, sneeze, or even people talking. Let's widen our personal spaces as a start.

There's one thing no one has talked about when it comes to masks. How do you eat? First, you have to make sure you're eating in a safe environment, (like your home) and you have to make sure your utensils and food are clean and prepared by someone who is healthy. This causes a problem if you're eating during a flight. I'm assuming that Gwyneth Paltrow didn't eat during her long flight to Paris. See how complicated this can get?

Disinfectants: This is a bit more complex. There is a lot of literature out there on which is the best disinfectant, but there's more than just efficacy involved. To kill a coronavirus requires dwell time for the disinfectant to sit on the infected surface. This means the surface has to remain wet for a relatively long time for the disinfectant to do its job.

Over the counter wipes and bottled disinfectants don't tell you that. (None that I'm aware of anyway.) I only learned about it when discussing it with hubby, Greg, who's had a lot of experience with safety and dangerous chemicals, having been in the chemical industry for over 40 years.

One of the best sites for information on disinfectants has been Survival Mom. She has an excellent article on disinfectants.

I can tell you what I use in my home. Along with the Lysol wipes that are only marginally helpful for bacteria, I use alcohol and hydrogen peroxide (12% diluted) I reserve bleach for concrete and porcelain surfaces.

The problem with both alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and bleach is that it's not friendly to a lot of surfaces so be careful where you use it. I use it primarily on hard surfaces such as steel, granite, and glass. Don't forget the dwell time too. In order to kill the virus it must remain wet.

Survival Mom recommends Oxiver Wipes which contains 4.25% hydrogen peroxide and has a one minute dwell time (which is great!).

For myself, and to save money, I bought a 12% strength of hydrogen peroxide.  Here's the link.

REMEMBER: Most hydrogen peroxide sold in big box stores are only 3%. 12% can be damaging to surfaces, so be careful where you use it. Don't use it straight out of the bottle. Dilute it to 4.25% as needed.

A tip from my personal chemical expert, Greg: When you dilute, pour the concentrate into the water. Not the other way around.

Many wipes and liquids say they kill coronavirus, but that's not entirely accurate.

I found a useful site (Infection Control Today) that gave some good  guidelines for disinfection. It cites: "The best way to deal with that problem is by cleaning those surfaces with a solution that’s 62% to 72% ethanol, .5% hydrogen peroxide, or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (bleach) within 1 minute of contamination..."

That said, I also read on Journal Online, that both Isopropyl and Ethanol alcohol are equally good at disinfection in concentrations of 70%. 

If it makes it easier to remember, Ethanol alcohol is the stuff in vodka, while Isopropyl is otherwise known as rubbing alcohol. As a plus, you can drink actual vodka while you're sanitizing with the other stuff.

What can you do to stay protected? The CDC keeps repeating the best advice.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (or two Happy Birthday songs)
  • Stay away from crowds or confined spaces like planes and cruise ships.
  • Don't touch your mouth, nose or eyes, especially after touching a surface that could harbor the virus.
  • Don't panic. 
While anyone can catch the virus, it doesn't mean it's a death sentence. Many people get sick and recover. The problem is that they spread the virus to people who can't fight it as well.

Covid 19 is particularly hard on the over 60 crowd, with 2/3 of men (over 60) dying to 1/3 of women. But it seems repeated exposure can kill young and healthy people too. That's what happened to Dr. Li Wenliang, who was only 34, and one of the first doctors to warn others about a new virus.

Now this is China which has a far different social and health infrastructure than the US. How it affects the Western world has yet to be seen. We've not yet experienced large numbers of infections. My hope is that we'll be more medically prepared for severe cases, but the big cities will suffer most.

One worrying piece of information is that it seems it might take two or more days for people to show symptoms which means you could get infected by someone who looks perfectly healthy. 

As of this writing, here are some interesting, if troubling stories you might like to read:

California: A woman in California has tested positive even though she has not traveled or had contact with anyone from an infected country. She was not immediately treated for Covid-19 since she didn't meet the criteria. This raises the possibility that the virus is already circulating in the community.

US: In the US, two people have died from Covid 19, both men. One in his 50s and another in his 70s.

New York: 700 people recently arrived from China have been asked by New York state officials to quarantine themselves.

North Korea: Deeply chilling is this news from North Korea who allegedly executed an official who broke quarantine after his visit from China.

Hong Kong: This one bothers me. A pet dog in Hong Kong has tested (a weak) positive for coronavirus. His owner has been diagnosed with Covid-19. My theory is that the dog simply picked up the virus from his owner and is not necessarily infected. But the ramifications that pets can be carriers is scary. I'm keeping up with this one.

We are such a mobile society that it's not a question of IF but WHEN Covid-19 will reach us locally. The latest news is that the virus has already been circulating for six weeks in Washington, New York, and California.

Stay away from crowded, confined places, avoid air travel, and avoid sick people.

It's important too, not to overreact or believe every story you hear. The best advice is to stay calm and wash your hands.

Next week, I'll go into detail on what to do if your immediate community has an outbreak.

Disclaimer: I'm not a medical professional. I'm just a nerd who does her research.


Stacy McKitrick said…
Welcome back!
Hubby's and my big vacation cruise to/land tour of Europe happens in June, but Daughter and I fly to Vegas this month to celebrate her 35th birthday. We've got big plans (3 hockey games, trip to Grand Canyon). Sucks that this virus is out there. I really hope it becomes a non-issue.
the author said…
What Stacy said. :) Also, the blog looks lovely.

Thanks for all this very helpful info, especially on disinfecting surfaces. Looks like as of this morning we might have two cases here, but both are in counties that aren't close to ours.

We keep prepared and stocked for anything, really, so all I need to do right now is maintain the supplies and keep track of what's happening with our extended families. People are panicking, though. When we went to Wal-Mart to get some parts for the garage door opener almost everyone in town was there stocking up on non-perishables and bottled water. The shelves were two-thirds emptied.

Take care and stay well, my friend.
Maria Zannini said…
Stacy: Me too! Please be careful on that cruise. If you're trapped there it's nothing but a petri dish. Hopefully, the virus will die down during the summer. Most coronaviruses do.
Maria Zannini said…
Lynn: re: The shelves were two-thirds emptied.
That's part 2 of this topic, for next week. The same thing happened to us when we went to Costco for puppy food.

People like us are in good shape. That's what all that hurricane training does to us. :)

re: blog
There are parts that still need to be addressed, but I've been away long enough and it was time to get back into harness.
LD Masterson said…
Glad to see you back and, as always, with good information to share. I actually flew to CA a couple weekends ago and spent last weekend at a retreat with a bunch of people,but now that I'm home, I think I'm going to stay here and avoid crowds for a while.
Our church did adjust the meathod of distribution of Holy Communion on Sunday to avoid sharing germs and we substituted elbow bumps for hugs and handshakes. Just being careful.
Maria Zannini said…
Linda: Us too. We had done some short day traveling and gathering, but I think that's it for us until the summer when things should have calmed down.

I remember when H1N1 was in the news and some churches opted for letting people take their communion wafer. It's a good practice, especially for older people.

PS Good to hear from you again!
Jenny Schwartz said…
Glad you're back! and in more good news, apparently the case of the dog with the cold was wrong, and it's fine.
Maria Zannini said…
Hi Jenny! And thank you!

Glad to hear about the dog. The last thing we need is for it to jump species again.
Mike Keyton said…
Interesting and apposite, Maria. Good to see you back again, too. Ref

Also, remember that infected droplets can also be carried through the eyes. You can get just as infected if you're wearing a mask, but no eye protection.

Any mask though does two things:
If you're sick, it prevents you from sneezing or coughing on anyone and spreading the virus.
It keeps you from touching your nose and mouth which is the best way for the virus to enter the lungs. It's worth remembering the average person can touch their face 15 - 23 times an hour ! My solution is basically hands in pocket , spectacles and a basilisk stare
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: I am absolutely the worst for touching my face. And if I think about not touching my face, my nose starts to itch. LOL!