Could the fight against COVID-19 be the watershed in our attitude towards hygiene?

BY KITNES - Apr 30, 2020 at 6:22am 100

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Good hygienic practices are as important as lockdowns in reducing the spread of the coronavirus at the community level.

Perhaps, of all the precautionary measures, the hygiene protocol seems to be the most daunting for most Ghanaians.

While lockdowns and quarantines are relatively easier for authorities to enforce, punitive measures or sanctions may not be the effectual ways to cause an attitudinal change in a population which for years, has had unhealthy respect for hygienic practices.

The call for personal hygiene is not merely a temporary response to an emergency, but a complete lifestyle change holding overarching prospect for preventing many illnesses and reducing the burden of infectious diseases.

In this pandemic, the total population can be broadly categorized into three (3) groups, SUSCEPTIBLE, INFECTED & RECOVERED. The susceptible group includes all persons who do not have the virus yet and could have it.

The infected group comprises formerly susceptible people who currently have the virus and may or may not be showing symptoms for the disease.

Virologists estimate 1 in 4 coronaviruses “carriers” could be asymptomatic (not showing symptoms) and are likely contributing to its rapid spread. Infected persons who have recovered from the disease make up the recovered Group.

These ideally should develop an immune response against the virus, at least for a while. It is still unknown to scientists whether recovering from Covid-19 confers immunity or not.

'I want to use this medium as a public health student and advocate to encourage the general public to take cognizance of the health protocols and strictly adhere to them' says Mr. Curtis Conduah.

Since all infected persons were onetime susceptible people, it follows that protecting the susceptible group would stop the spread of the virus over time.

The novel Coronavirus can be detectable on copper for up to four hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on plastic and steel for up to 72 hours!

Personal hygiene remains cardinal on the list of protective measures. The hand is a major transporter of mucus or droplets containing the virus into our bodies through touching our eyes, nose, or mouth.

Unfortunately, many unhygienic practices in Ghana could stifle efforts put in place by authorities to reduce the rate of infection. Among many things, the use of ATMs and physical cash for trading is high-risk germ and virus reservoirs.

Yet, many observe little or no hygienic protocols when using ATMs and handling cash. I recommend that all ATM outlets be equipped with Veronica buckets full of water and soaps for public use or be equipped with hand sanitizer dispensers.

The handwashing and sanitizing procedures could also be displayed on the idle screens of all ATMs nationwide.

ATMs and self-service fuel stations have been identified as key sources of the spread of the coronavirus particularly in the US, where people attend to fuel pumps themselves. Can we Ghanaians take a cue from this as a people?

In the weeks following the lifting of the lockdown, will we be experiencing the onset of “BEHAVIORAL FATIGUE” like many countries in Europe?; a situation where people become exhausted from the public health measures and its adherence wane over time, possibly before the actual peak of the pandemic.

When it comes to infectious diseases, it is not a matter of those infected (them) and not infected (susceptible), it is us; we are all in it together. Unlike MERS and SARS, the novel coronavirus has spread across all nations, threatening global economic stability.

The shortage of critical medical supplies similarly threatens the resilience of robust health systems worldwide.

The emergency public health directives might not yield the desired results insofar as individuals do not take personal responsibility for their health and hygiene.

It takes grit and determination to follow through on one’s commitment to changing behavior. Let us not grow weary of washing our hands regularly with soap under running water; in due time, we shall reap the benefits.

The following basic protective measures against the new coronavirus have been outlined by the World Health Organization.

*Wash your hands frequently

*Maintain physical distancing

*Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

*Practice respiratory hygiene: covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

*If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

*Stay informed and follow the advice given by your healthcare provider or national public health authority. In the Context of Ghana, wearing of nose mask is compulsory as the government intensifies the preventive measures against the spread of the virus.