Connect with us

Health

Why it may be harder to catch COVID-19 from surfaces than we first thought – CBC.ca

Published

on


This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


Disinfecting groceries, wiping down packages, cordoning off playgrounds. 

While those approaches to avoiding COVID-19 infection became commonplace early on in the pandemic, the virus may not transmit as easily on surfaces as was originally thought — and experts say it may be time to shift our focus on how we protect ourselves.

To date, there have been “no specific reports” of COVID-19 directly from contact with contaminated surfaces, even though research consistently shows the virus can survive on them for several hours or days, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

The update was part of a new scientific brief released by the UN agency outlining its stance on how COVID-19 spreads, after an open letter from more than 200 experts to change its messaging on the possibility it transmits through the air.

Despite the lack of concrete evidence on surface transmission, the WHO still maintains  contaminated surfaces – also known as fomites – are a “likely mode of transmission” for COVID-19.

Surfaces ‘not a significant risk’ for COVID-19

But experts from a variety of disciplines aren’t convinced, and some warn the focus on surfaces has been overblown.

Emanuel Goldman, a microbiology professor at the New Jersey Medical School of Rutgers University, said in an article published in The Lancet journal earlier this week that the risk of COVID-19 infection from surfaces is “exaggerated.”

“This is not a significant risk,” he told CBC News. “Not even a measurable risk.”

Goldman said the evidence for infection from surfaces was based on lab experiments that were unrealistic when compared to real life situations and used extremely large amounts of virus to test if it could survive over extended periods of time.

Linsey Marr, an expert in the transmission of viruses at Virginia Tech who has studied the survival of COVID-19 on surfaces, said that while it’s possible people could get infected from surfaces, it’s still unclear if it’s actually happening.

Restaurants with patios, shopping malls and hair salons are among the businesses allowed to reopen as Toronto begins phase two of a stepped return to pre-COVID-19 operations on June 24, 2020. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“I think the thinking has changed,” Marr said, adding the perceived risk of transmission from contaminated surfaces is lower than it was earlier in the pandemic when not much was known about the coronavirus.

She said in order to be infected with COVID-19 from a surface, a person would have to transfer it to their fingers where it would need to survive long enough to enter the body by touching the eyes, nose or mouth. 

“We know that virus can survive [on surfaces] and then the question is, can people pick those up and transfer them into their respiratory tract?” Marr said. “You have to have a lot of virus on there to cause infections.”

The average person infected with COVID-19 also isn’t typically shedding large amounts of the virus at any given time, noted infectious disease specialist Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.

“Viruses aren’t that environmentally hardy,” he added.

“They’re built to infect humans. They’re built to infect cells. As soon as they leave the human host and enter the environment, they become more and more unstable.”

Watch | Are you safer from COVID-19 indoors or outdoors?

Andrew Chang asks an infectious disease doctor whether it’s safer to be indoors or outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic. 1:02

Eugene Chudnovsky, a professor of physics at the City University of New York whose research has focused on the spread of the virus, said the threat of infection from a surface like a doorknob really depends on the conditions to which it was exposed.

“If there are just a few people touching it in an hour, it’s very unlikely it will contain the infective dose of the virus,” he said.

“But if this is a door that is getting opened every few seconds for a lengthy bit of time and there is a significant number of symptomatic infected people who are touching it during a few hours, it can accumulate a significant amount of the virus.”

Disinfecting surfaces ‘not as necessary as we thought’

One of the reasons the evidence for COVID-19 infection from surfaces is lacking is because it’s difficult to track through contact tracing.

“You can start asking people about conversations they had and places they were, but when you start asking them about surfaces they’ve touched, it gets much, much harder to really pin it down,” said Erin Bromage, an associate biology professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth who researches infectious diseases.

“They’re probably associated with a few percentage of transmissions, probably at the highest, which is a lot lower than what we find say for influenza – but it seems to be not a major driver with this particular pathogen.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada maintains it is “not certain how long COVID-19 survives on surfaces,” and says the risk of infection from things like packages is low. It does, however, still list contaminated surfaces as a common route of infection.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines on surface transmission of COVID-19 in May, saying it “may be possible” a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it but it’s not “the main way the virus spreads.”

“There’s just a growing narrative that the degree of transmission through fomites is probably less than what was earlier anticipated,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician at Toronto General Hospital.

“The vast majority of transmission seems to be through close contact with an infected individual, primarily in an indoor setting.”

He said the change in thinking around the risk of COVID-19 infection from surfaces means that the average person’s groceries are probably much less of a threat than a visit to the grocery store.

“It reinforces hand hygiene, but it also tells us that the need to disinfect every surface that comes into the house is probably not as necessary as we thought it was earlier on in the pandemic,” he said. “It’s not hurting anybody, but it’s just not necessary.”

WATCH | How to handle your groceries during the COVID-19 outbreak:

The coronavirus can live up to several days on some surfaces, but experts say there’s no reason to worry about the groceries you bring home. CBC News shows you how basic hygiene will keep you safe from your groceries. 1:36

Bromage, who wrote a viral blog post in May shared by millions explaining the places people are most at risk of COVID-19 infection, said the risk of transmission from surfaces on things brought into the home is “quite low” in countries like the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s probably something to be aware of,” he said, “but something that we don’t need to focus a lot of anxiety and attention on.”

Chagla said the initial focus on surface contamination also sparked a common practice that could be downright harmful: wearing latex gloves while running errands or shopping.

Discared gloves are pictured at North York General Hospital on May 26, 2020. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“Going to the grocery store wearing a pair of gloves is probably not the cleanest thing to be doing,” he said.

While health-care workers and food service staff wear gloves for infection control reasons, Chagla stressed they’re used for specific purposes, and short periods of time.

Wearing gloves for extended stretches while touching various objects can lead to cross-contamination the longer you’re wearing them, he said, which winds up being less helpful than just washing or sanitizing your bare hands regularly.

‘Misinterpretation’ of data

For parents of young children who are concerned about the risk of COVID-19 infection from surfaces like playgrounds, which have been off limits in cities like Toronto for months, the lack of evidence is no doubt frustrating.

Marr thinks the guidance on children avoiding playgrounds has been “misguided” throughout the pandemic.

“Playgrounds are probably one of the safer places for kids to congregate, if they have to congregate,” she said. “And the reason why is that sunlight kills off the virus pretty effectively. So if it is on surfaces, I don’t think it’s going to last very long.”

Chagla said at this point in the pandemic, there’s no “good reason” why playgrounds should remain closed, given the combination of sunlight and open-air ventilation making them a relatively low-risk activity.

Marr said the real risk of infection from playgrounds is largely from kids who are in close contact with each other, not from the surfaces they’re interacting with.

Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Wednesday that officials are weighing the evidence on infection in children, but that the risk seems low. 

Caution tape is wrapped around a swing set at a playground in Regina on June 10. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

“From the science, what we know is that certainly young people, children, are less likely to have more severe consequences if they do get infected with the virus,” he said.

“It also appears that in terms of transmission, young children — at least in some of the studies i’ve seen — do not appear to be as efficient or effective in terms of transmitting the virus to others.”

Goldman said misguided policy decisions from governments and businesses pushed him to speak out about the lack of evidence for COVID-19 risk from surfaces.

“The problem is the public policy was driven by this misinterpretation of the data,” he said.

“It’s not that the data were wrong, but they were not the right data. It was not data that applied to the actual situations that are relevant.”

Goldman said these policy decisions can be “counterproductive” because they can “dilute” effective prevention measures like physical distancing and wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s actually harmful to have the wrong interpretation of the data,” he said. 

“I think it’s time to say the emperor has no clothes.”


To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Health

Living with face masks: How to stow them, reuse disposables and more – CBC.ca

Published

on


Now that wearing a mask to the mall, to the hairdresser and to school will be a regular occurrence for the next two years or more, a lot of questions have arisen about how it will fit into our busy lives.

Masks have recently become mandatory indoors in many cities across Canada and in the entire province of Quebec. The Public Health Agency of Canada is also recommending masks in schools for children over age 10, something that some provinces have already mandated.

Most of us have a handle on the basics, such as what types of masks there are and how to safely put them on and take them off.

We’ve also previously answered questions about:

  • The best materials.

  • Whether to use a filter.

  • How to sneeze or cough with a mask

  • How to stop your glasses from fogging up while wearing one.

  • Whether to wear goggles or face shields with your mask.

That said, now that we’re out and about while wearing masks a lot more than before, here are the answers to some more questions you might have.

Is it safe to pull down my mask and keep it under my chin?

You’ve probably seen lots of people doing this as they move back and forth between indoor spaces where masks are typically required and outdoors spaces where they’re not.

Is this safe? 

“No, that is probably the worst thing you could do with the mask,” Dr. Zain Chagla, a professor and infectious disease specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton, said in a recent interview with CBC News.

WATCH | What’s the safest way to wear a mask when not using it?

An infectious disease physician answers viewer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic including whether it’s safe to pull a mask around the chin when it’s not in use. 2:18

That’s because it risks getting droplets or germs on the outside of the mask onto your chin and lower lip, he says. “You’re basically putting all that stuff in your mouth and defeating the purpose of wearing a mask.”

And of course, pulling the mask down often involves touching the front of it, which is not recommended, as it could contaminate your hands. (Remember that you should only hold the mask by the ear loops and wash your hands before and after).

The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be transmitted when infectious droplets enter through the eyes, nose or mouth.

Can I hang a mask on my rearview mirror between uses?

Dr. Anand Kumar, a professor of medicine at the University of Manitoba, says that depends on the level of risk it’s been exposed to.

“As a physician, given the exposure I get in the hospital, I probably wouldn’t do it,” he says.

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an associate professor at the University of Alberta’s Division of Infectious Diseases in Edmonton, has previously recommended against it, too.

But Kumar acknowledges that the risk of infection in most public places in Canada is currently low, and if you were wearing a mask in a low-risk environment, it’s probably OK to leave it hanging from the mirror overnight to wear the next day. That said, ideally you should change and wash your mask after each use.

What’s the best way to stow a mask while on the go?

Kumar says in a higher-risk environment, such as a community with outbreaks, it’s best to keep the mask on at all times, even when you’re outside between buildings.

“If you’re putting the mask on and off, it gives you more chances to contaminate yourself with it,” he says.

Technically, the proper way to carry a mask between uses would be to put it in a paper bag and carry it around with you, he suggests. Paper is better than plastic for mask storage because plastic keeps the moisture in, which could allow bacteria to grow in the mask, he says.

In places where the risk is low, Kumar says, it’s OK to put the mask in your pocket.

WATCH | Guidelines on how to wear a mask safely:

Glasses fog up? Not sure how often to wash the mask? CBC’s Tina Lovgreen demonstrates how to wear a mask safely. 1:51

Can you reuse a disposable mask? How many times?

While cloth masks are designed to be washed and reused, most medical-style disposable masks are officially designed for a single use — especially in higher-risk environments.

But Kumar says you can reuse them, especially if you’re just out and about in an area with a low prevalence of COVID-19. 

Between uses, he recommends leaving the mask in a paper bag for at least three days. During that time, any virus on the mask will gradually decrease.

He says it would be “perfectly reasonable” to have five to seven masks that are rotated into use on subsequent days.

How many times can you reuse a disposable medical-style mask?

Kumar says with this type of mask, what you see is what you get, so you can reuse it until it’s dirty, worn or damaged. 

“Obviously, you don’t want to reuse a mask that’s soiled,” he says.

N95 masks can also be reused, Kumar says. 

A disposable medical-style mask can be reused until it’s dirty, worn or damaged. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Can you clean a disposable mask between uses?

Yes. Medical-style disposable masks can be steamed or exposed to sunlight to kill the virus more quickly, Kumar says.

Experts don’t recommend using cleaners or especially disinfectants on such masks, as you could end up breathing them in the next time you use it.

Kumar says N95 masks contain filters that can be damaged with improper cleaning, but they can be safely steamed.

Of course, for cloth masks, washing in the laundry is “the most effective, easiest thing to do.”

It is possible to reuse disposable face masks like this one. If you store it in a paper bag for at least three days between uses, any virus on it should be gone by then. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

What should I look for when choosing a reusable mask?

As masks become a bigger part of daily life, you’ll probably need more of them — like socks and underwear. Reusable cloth masks are generally recommended to maintain a supply of disposable, medical masks for essential workers who need them.

Given the huge variety of styles and prices, what should you look for?

Kumar suggests a mask:

  • With multiple layers, as additional layers add more protection.

  • Made of cotton, since viruses remain detectable in some synthetic materials for a longer time.

  • With a good fit — the shape doesn’t matter, just the fit, since a tighter fit forces air through the mask instead of around it.

A higher price doesn’t mean a mask is better, Kumar says. His favourite cloth mask cost $4.

Wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19, an elementary school student wipes her hands with sanitizer before entering school for classes in Godley, Texas, on Wednesday. An Ontario doctor recommends that students bring two clean masks to school each day. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)

How many masks should your child have for school?

Alberta, which will require teachers and students in Grade 4 and up to wear masks in schools,  is providing two cloth masks per student. But Dr. Jennifer Kwan, a Burlington, Ont., family physician who advocates wearing face masks in public places to curb COVID-19, thinks students will need more to allow time for some to go through the wash.

She recommends that a child go to school each day with two clean masks and switch to a new one after lunch.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Health

Evening Brief: Drug trials and furry tribulations – iPolitics.ca

Published

on



Tonight’s Evening Brief is brought to you by Shelter Movers. The COVID-19 pandemic has put women at greater risk of experiencing violence at home than ever before. If someone was there for you when you needed it, pass it on — help us move women and children out of abusive households.

Good evening to you.

We begin with a welcome bit of news on the coronavirus front. The federal ministers responsible for the development and production of a vaccine against COVID-19 announced today that the government has reached a deal with American pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna to manufacture millions of doses of their in-trial vaccines.

The agreements with Pfizer and Moderna are the first the federal government has reached with potential producers of COVID-19 vaccines. At a news conference in Toronto, neither Procurement Minister Anita Anand nor Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains would say how many doses of vaccines each company has agreed to provide, nor how much the federal government has agreed to pay for them. They kept the details secret, citing ongoing negotiations with other vaccine providers. But Charlie Pinkerton has more on the details that are known.

Meanwhile, less than pleasant relations between Canada and China may be standing in the way of this country getting early access to a leading COVID-19 vaccine. It turns out Chinese officials are still holding up a shipment of the drug needed to carry out promised human trials here. Although the federal government signed an accord with CanSino Biologics in the spring to test its vaccine here, the trials have yet to start. Postmedia’s Tom Blackwell reports. (iPolitics had the scoop on this delay a month ago.)

And you might want to check the hand sanitizer you’re lathering yourself in. Health Canada is recalling more than 50 of them that contain ingredients “not acceptable for use” and that may pose health risks.

The Conservatives have asked Canada’s privacy commissioner to probe a “potential data breach of Canadians’ privacy” affecting those who applied for the Canada Student Service Grant.

Party industry critic Michelle Rempel Garner and ethics critic Michael Barrett sent a letter today to Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien regarding how WE Charity stores personal data collected through the program’s application process. It states that the I Want to Help platform that young Canadians used to apply appears to be built by American firm JazzHR, headquartered in Pittsburgh. The now-offline sign-up page was powered by the company. The terms-and-conditions page for the platform states that applicants’ data “may transfer and be stored on a number of servers and storage locations, including, but not limited to, the U.S., Canada and the U.K.” It also states the program may use third-party vendors for tasks such as hosting its website, analyzing data and processing payments. Entities sub-contracted by WE Charity become subject to privacy laws of their own jurisdiction. Jolson Lim has that story.

There seems to be more than a breeze’s worth of change blowing in Atlantic Canada. On the heels of Andrew Furey’s successful bid to replace Premier Dwight Ball in Newfoundland and Labrador earlier this week, there are rumblings New Brunswickers could be headed to the ballot box before long. Speculation that an election call is coming has been swirling for weeks, and Premier Blaine Higgs isn’t dismissing the rumours. But as the Canadian Press reports, he says if a call is coming, it’s not coming this week. It seems he’s trying to decide whether to send the entire province to the polls in a general election or to just hold byelections in at least three ridings this fall. The minority Progressive Conservative government has a caucus meeting this week, as well as Higgs’s nomination meeting, so stay tuned.

The Sprout: Trade deficit widens while imports, exports go up: StatCan

The Drilldown: Offshore wind could create 900,000 jobs in 10 years, global industry group says

In Other Headlines:

Internationally:

In Beirut, the Lebanese government has put port officials under house arrest in the wake of a blast that killed at least 135 people, injured thousands and flattened large swaths of the city.

The focus on the investigation is now on the potential negligence that allowed 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilizers, to be stored at the facility for six years. Reuters is reporting that documents show customs officials warned of its hazards after it was unloaded from a cargo ship in 2014. Satellite images obtained by CNN show a massive crater in the port, where nearly every building has either sustained significant damage or has been destroyed. As the world responds with aid and assistance, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said today that Canada is ready to assist Lebanon “however we can.”

As what might be the most unusual presidential campaign in American history rolls on, don’t expect to see presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in Milwaukee accept his party’s nomination. Amid concerns over the surging coronavirus, he won’t accept it at the Democratic national convention, but rather at home in Delaware.

“From the very beginning of this pandemic, we put the health and safety of the American people first,” Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez said in a statement today. “We followed the science, listened to the doctors and public health experts, and we continued making adjustments to our plans in order to protect lives. That’s the kind of steady and responsible leadership America deserves,” he continued.

Former first lady Michelle Obama dove in deep on her new podcast today, telling listeners she’s “dealing with some form of low-grade depression” this year. “Not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife, and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting,” Obama said, noting the Trump administration’s response to it all has not helped.

“I don’t think I’m unusual in that,” she said. “But I’d be remiss to say that part of this depression is also a result of what we’re seeing in terms of the protests, the continued racial unrest, that has plagued this country since its birth. I have to say that waking up to the news, waking up to how this administration has or has not responded, waking up to yet another story of a Black man or a Black person somehow being dehumanized, or hurt or killed, or falsely accused of something, it is exhausting. And it has led to a weight that I haven’t felt in my life, in a while.” That story from The Hill.

And as if he doesn’t have enough on his plate, between a pandemic and presidential shenanigans, it turns out Dr. Anthony Fauci and his family are getting death threats. That’s what you get, apparently, for trying to keep people safe.

In Opinion:

Seven deadly sins to avoid on the path to anti-racism

The Kicker:

Finally, today, we leave you with a happy “tail.”

Photo: Facebook

Coal, the last remaining alumnus of the Parliament Hill cat sanctuary, is on the mend after an unfortunate tangle with a piece of string last month. The 12-year-old feline spent three days in emergency under the watchful eye of vets after ingesting it. He’s now home with his humans and doing well. And updating his Facebook page, obviously.

Have a great night.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Health

Canada signs deals with Pfizer, Moderna to get doses of COVID-19 vaccines – Salmon Arm Observer

Published

on


Canada is signing deals with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and U.S.-based biotech firm Moderna to procure millions of doses of their experimental COVID-19 vaccines.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand is announcing the deals this morning in Toronto, which will see Canada get access to the vaccines if they prove to be both safe and effective.

Both companies began Phase 3 clinical trials of their vaccine candidates in the last week, large-scale tests to determine how well the vaccines work.

Earlier in July both Pfizer and Moderna reported positive results from smaller trials.

The Phase 3 trials will both test the vaccines on 30,000 people, and results are expected in the fall.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warned Tuesday about expecting a vaccine to provide a quick end to the pandemic, saying they provide hope but likely no silver bullet for the novel coronavirus.

READ MORE: COVID-19 vaccine efforts provide hope but no silver bullet to stop pandemic, Tam says

READ MORE: 30% of British Columbians would ‘wait and see’ before taking COVID vaccine, poll suggests

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won’t find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending