Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Prevention (and more) in a Nutshell


It has been brought to our attention that, in spite of (or perhaps owing to) the sheer volume of information available on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), people are still confused about the many basics of how to stay safe.

The illness is called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but the virus itself is called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). I’m going to use only coronavirus or COVID-19 to keep things simple.

The intent of this post is to make this information as simple and easily digestible as possible.

The Summary First

Coronavirus is spread via:

  1. Respiratory route (coughing and sneezing) and faeces (“poo”).
  2. It remains “viable” on surfaces for as long as three days.

To prevent illness from coronavirus:

  1. Maintain a distance of  two meters from others, if possible five meters.
  2. Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.
  3. Sanitize hands using hand sanitizer containing at least 60% ethanol (e.g., Purell®) or 70% isopropanol.
  4. In general, avoid being “touchy” with things.
  5. Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands (or other body parts, or gloves).
  6. Wearing a mask (N95 filtering facepiece respirator) may reduce risk of infection, but is only recommended for persons working in a healthcare setting.
  7. Wearing gloves is not recommended in particular.

If you suspect you have contracted coronavirus you should:

  1. Isolate yourself in your home for 14 days.
  2. Complete the Ontario Ministry of Health’s self-assessment, or contact TeleHealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.

Coronavirus is most dangerous in:

  1. Persons older than 65 years.
  2. Persons having certain pre-existing health conditions.

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness, caused by a coronavirus (a family of viruses) that is infecting humans for the first time, specifically, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Because it has not infected a human population in the past, no humans have immunity to it.

How is coronavirus spread?

COVID-19 is transmitted primarily via the respiratory route: an infected person will sneeze or cough, the virus will leave their body and another person will contact it, either by inhaling virus droplets; or touching virus droplets that have landed on a surface, then touching their own nose or mouth.

Once “coughed/sneezed”, the majority of the droplets will be pulled to the ground by gravity. This is assumed to happen within two meters, but some evidence exists that coronavirus can infect persons 4.5 meters distant in a closed environment.

Although some research has been conducted using aerosolized COVID-19 (which is of greater concern as it may remain suspended as a “cloud”), research has detected no aerosolized coronavirus particles in the hospital rooms of COVID-19 patients.

The virus is also present in faeces in 53.4% of patients.

How long is coronavirus on surfaces viable (able to infect you)?

Research conducted using aerosolized coronavirus (remember, there is no evidence at present that coronavirus can be aerosolized, but it most closely approximates sneezed virus) demonstrates the virus remains viable on:

  1. Plastic: longer than 72 hours (3 days)
  2. Stainless steel: longer than 72 hours (3 days)
  3. Cardboard: less than  24 hours
  4. Copper: less than 4 hours
  5. (In) aerosol form: at least 3 hours

Is wearing a filtering facepiece respirator (“mask”) protective against coronavirus?

It is, but is only partially effective unless paired with frequent hand washing and sanitizing, and avoiding unwashed hand contact with mouth, nose and eyes.

Wearing a mask will minimize contact with inhaled coronavirus droplets, but this benefit is minimized if you continue to touch your mouth, nose and eyes with hands (or gloved hands) that have contacted the virus.

Mask use is only recommended for persons working in a healthcare setting. If you choose to wear a mask, the standard mask recommended to prevent infection by airborne virus is an N95 filtering facepiece respirator.

Detailed information on effective mask use is available here.

Is wearing gloves protective against coronavirus?

Wearing gloves is not more protective than washing and/or sanitizing hands. COVID-19 does not pass through the skin. If you touch your mouth, nose or eyes with either unwashed/sanitized hands or dirty gloves, the potential for infection is the same.

How do I know if I am infected with coronavirus?

For the first 2 to 14 days following infection, you may not know, as you may have no symptoms.

Symptoms of  COVID-19 are:

What should I do if I suspect I am infected with coronavirus?

  1. Isolate yourself in your home for 14 days.
  2. Complete the Ontario Ministry of Health’s self-assessment, or contact TeleHealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.

Confirmation of COVID-19 infection is by throat swab and potentially other microbiological laboratory assessment.

Is coronavirus dangerous?

Populations at greater risk are:

  1. Adults older than 65 years
  2. Persons having asthma
  3. Persons having compromised immunity (e.g., persons having HIV infection or using immunosuppressive medications)
  4. Pregnant women

COVID-19 is potentially fatal in:

  1. Persons older than 85 year – 10 to 27% of cases
  2. Persons 65 to 84 years – 3 to 11% of cases
  3. Persons 55 to 64 % years – less than 1% of cases
  4. Persons younger than 54 years – 0% of cases

The above having been acknowledged, most persons contracting COVID-19 will experience symptoms of common cold. 80% of cases recorded in China were considered mild.

Keep calm and carry on!

Jonah Lusis, ND



Posted: 2020 Mar 20