Dr Basab Ghosh

April 2, 2020, 14:24:10   

"We shall overcome someday, deep in my heart, I do believe", only by using facemask we can win most of the battle with this invisible enemy COVID-19 causing coronavirus! Let the government of India do their excellent work under the guidance of World health Organization (WHO), however we the common people can help the government in the fight against corona simply by wearing facemask to craft ground level social-distance.

This coronavirus is highly infectious; spread of infection is possible from one person to another person through droplets. Coronavirus is loaded in both cases where disease symptoms are already visible or in whom symptoms are not yet visible. In a community now we are not sure who is carrying virus from COVID-19 patient! When an infected person is coughing or sneezing droplets are coming out from face and nose of that person at the speed of 120-140 km per hour; each droplet holds 6000 to 7000 virus. Hiding inside droplet this corona can travel up to one meter, but it is little heavy so dropping down to the surface once by one meter the droplet is dispersed by itself. So coronavirus infection is not floating in the air like airborne virus, rather it spreads in the following ways,

1. Directly from human to human through respiratory droplets while coughing or sneezing between close contacts within 1 meter distance.

2. Indirect spread via contaminated surfaces is another possible cause of getting infection. A recent published paper in NEJM medical journal indicates the virus may remain alive on plastic and steel for up to three days, but does not survive in cardboard for more than a day or on copper for more than four hours. So, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has live virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. But the good news is that it is inactivated by soap!

How to tackle the situation at individual level?

1. Use facemask by everyone: According to the WHO, the use of facemask is only recommended if a person is coughing or sneezing or when one is taking care of someone with a suspected infection. However, if in India we start using facemask even at a low cost level for everyone, we will win most of the battle at grass root level by allowing simple social-distance; social-distance is the key to ultimate success. If we do not spread our breathing in open air or if we do not inhale others breathe directly, the chance of getting infection is over!

2.Practise soap and water hand wash frequently: By simple hand washing with any soap, if coronavirus is contaminated from any surface in our hand we can stop it's spreading to our windpipe. If we frequently wash our hands for at least 20 seconds, chance of killing that fat-wall virus is possible. If soap and water hand washing is not available, then as an alternate we can use hand sanitizer of at least 60 percent alcohol base.

3.Practice good respiratory hygiene: If we practice good respiratory hygiene  by covering mouth and nose with handkerchief, tissue paper or at least a piece of cloth while coughing we can stop spreading droplets to others. One can try best alternate coughing practise by using any of the elbows.

4. Avoid touching the eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

5. Avoid public activities like gatherings to cut short person to person contacts.

Facemask use by everyone:

Lots of confusion in public regarding facemask! If we all use it, nothing wrong in that, rather as already explained above in a crisis extra protection is always better! So, use economical facemask for your safety.

1.  N95 and Surgical facemask both gives 95% protection for viral infection from one person to another. But they are costly for daily use and not for every common population, rather for only medical personals who are exposed to COVID-19 risk. There is already shortage of those items and if everyone starts using them, then there will be further shortage for our COVID-19 health workers.

2.  We can use homemade double layered 100% cotton facemask. This is specifically examined and is proven that it gives 70% protection from viral infection from one person to another. This virus test is done by bombarding with 0.02 micron particles, which are 5 times smaller than Coronavirus. So, for Coronavirus might be protection will be more than 70% if I argue at all! We public can use double layered cotton homemade facemask to ensure our security for social-distance. If we keep a piece of normal paper or tissue paper in between two layers then definitely efficacy will further increase.

3.  As an alternate to stitched double layered homemade facemask, we can use double folded gent's hanky with extra protection by keeping a piece of normal paper or tissue paper in between two folds or even multi layered gamosa to protect ourselves and others.

In our country the ultimate drastic step of social-distancing for large scale community control was the need of the hour and from mid night 25th March nationwide Complete Lockdown for 21 days was imposed by our Honourable Prime Minister, limiting the movements of 136 crores population, which is the biggest ever in history. Who representative to India Dr. Henk Bekedam praised the decision and described as "timely, comprehensive and robust".  In coming days with all efforts we shall definitely control first wave of viral transmission to come to zero transmission level, but there are possibilities of second and third wave of transmission and then even facemask use by whole India will play a vital role to minimize the impact at low level.

Now it is our responsibility to help the government to fight the unseen enemy COVID-19 and we can do this by keeping our promise to use facemask anytime anywhere anyhow in public places! Let`s promise to fight COVID-19 facemask is vital.


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