• Dr Andrew Kemp PhD

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) update

There is no doubt that COVID-19 is causing significant problems around the world. Cleaning operatives, like healthcare staff, may be exposed to more viral load than most, dependant on how quickly these spread through the UK. For those people around the world who have already lost loved ones, it is a tragedy that it may or may not have been possible to avoid. It sometimes seems that we are being given conflicting advice about the threat posed from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and our own government.  We have to understand that whilst everyone is concerned; they are in fact, focused on different parts of the same problem. For the WHO, this is about the numbers of people infected and in how many countries. Is this an epidemic or a pandemic now? How many people does it kill as a % of those who become infected (more on that later).   For the government, whilst they are obviously concerned about how many people die from the virus, they know that the societal and economic impact of a significant % of the population becoming sick is also a matter they will have to deal with. If enough people are off sick, schools close, hospitals already struggling are asking healthcare workers to work extra hours to cover. Who delivers the food to supermarkets if the driver is off sick, or at home looking after family who are sick.

However, we need to put the COVID-19 outbreak into perspective. On the 22nd of February 2020, the US government announced the figures for seasonal flu deaths in the USA alone from the 1st of January. The figure is 18,000 deaths. COVID-19 has also been around since the 1st of January, 3 deaths in the USA. I have already spoken about the need for the at-risk groups to take extra care, for the rest of us, if we become ill, it seems it is a fairly mild illness. There is already some evidence that the virus has mutated, and we need to know far more about it. With so many people working on this, let's dispel some myths and legends about it: We do not know if any hand sanitisers or disinfectants have actually been tested against COVID-19, so no one can say theirs does work. We can all make assumptions based on tests to similar viruses, but that is simply not good enough 2 1⁄2 months into an outbreak in 2020! The fact that FDA recently told the world’s biggest manufacturer of alcohol gel (Gojo/ Purell) to remove claims of viral kill from their labels and website would give a good indication of its efficacy against viruses in general. Dettol was similarly caught out with labels claiming kill against "human coronavirus" whatever that is? It certainly isn't COVID-19. Deep clean……..with what? Washing hands with soap and water is decontamination not disinfection, so the use of antibacterial soaps in preference to ordinary soaps would seem a waste of money, time and effort.  As no disinfectants have been tested, and if they have no one bothered to publish the test results, I would only advise that if they first deep decontaminate with detergents, then, dependent on the room potentially steam.  There may be a place for UV-c although its effect is limited to line of sight, so anything that the light doesn’t shine on directly is probably not going to be killed. It suffers from the same issues as all non-persistent technologies suffer from in that you have no idea how quickly surfaces are re-contaminated, but it can't hurt. In Summary Wash your hands with soap and water as often as you can. If you can get a 5th generation SiQuat hand sanitiser from either the US or Singapore, do it (it's the one I use).  If not just keep washing your hands. All surface cleaning should be done in 2 stages, decontamination with a detergent/surfactant followed by standard disinfection with whatever you are using now. You will not be able to get a 5th generation SiQuat into the country from US or Singapore, so don't try, use a hypochlorite or peroxide at the manufacturers recommended concentration. If you have a UV-c unit, use it as often as you sensibly can, it can’t cause you any problems as long as you follow manufacturer’s instructions.  Keep yourselves healthy, good diet and exercise to keep your immune system in peak condition. It is the best defence we all have.  Remember, you come into contact with viruses every day of your lives, your immune system fights them off, so you don’t even realise it most of the time. The US stats I gave before are real, and I hope that gives some perspective on this.  Dr Andrew Kemp PhD Head of BICSc Scientific Advisory Board