Understanding how germs spread indoors - Lake Harding Association

Understanding how germs spread indoors

By Micah Moen 0 Comment March 27, 2020


– As we’ve mentioned, all of
the precautions taken so far, however drastic, are
meant to prevent people from being exposed
to the coronavirus. Germs can rapidly
spread, especially in
indoor environments, as we learned from
Charles Gerba, an environmental microbiologist with the University of Arizona. Keep this simple for me. What is the coronavirus? – Actually, there are
coronaviruses that
occur every year. They’re part of the
common cold viruses. They cause about five to
7% of the common colds every year in the United
States but nobody dies from it. – What makes this strand so
different than previous years? – Well, I think this
current coronavirus is a much higher
rate of mortality. Usually with the common
cold coronavirus, we have no recorded mortality. It’s not as bad as the SARS
agent that occurred in 2003 where mortality rate was 10%
among the general population. This new coronavirus is
about three to 4% mortality so it’s less but it’s
spreading much faster. The SARS agent that occurred
in 2003 didn’t survive well in the environment,
thank goodness, so it wasn’t as easily
transmitted as this
new coronavirus. – Some of the practices that
many of us are undertaking, reduced work hours,
working from home, no more handshaking, no more
gatherings of 10 or more, how effective are
those measures? – Well, eliminating
exposure is one of the keys to preventing the
movement of this virus from one person to another. For example, let
me give the idea. We’ve done studies where
we put a tracer virus on a push plate to
an office building of say, a hundred people. Within four hours, it’s on
50% of the peoples’ hands, and half the surfaces
in that facility. It’s quite interesting
that the coffee break room seems to be the area where
people not only exchange germs but also gossip at the same time because that seems to be
the first area contaminated so separating people at
work, not going to work, is a really good idea ’cause
we’ve seen the viruses spread very rapidly in an
office environment today. We’re working on continuously
acting disinfectants which we would put on a surface but anytime the
virus lands on it, they would start
killing it right away and that’s one of the new
weapons we feel in germ warfare that would be very useful so
we’re rapidly working right now on all kinds of new
technologies that could be used to coating surfaces to
reduce the spread of viruses like the new coronavirus. That’s one of the things
we’re really emphasizing here. – How quickly can you take
what you’re doing in here and apply it out there? – Well, we’re hoping
the technology’s
available out there, we’re just trying to
see, make sure it works and it works directly to reduce
the spread of the viruses but still it’s gonna be months before it’s gonna be available. – One of the nicknames
you have is Dr. Germs so how disgusting are
things like this phone? – Yeah, I get that nickname
because we study how germs move in the environment, where’s
the most contaminated surfaces, and phones are one of the worst that most people thought
dirty without realizing it all the time because they’re
continually putting bacteria and potentially viruses
on the phone surfaces. Studies in hospitals have shown
that phones can play a role that transmit certain
diseases in hospital and healthcare situations
so we know they’re involved. But what you’re
doing all the time without realizing you’re
touching a surface, then touching your phone so
you’re moving a micro-organism from the surface to your phone. Now you put your phone in
your pocket then you go home and then you touch
the phone again, you take the micro-organisms off then you can bring
’em to your face, your other surfaces in
your home environment. – A lot of uncertainty, what
can we do to protect ourselves and minimize some of
the risk we’re passing along to each other? – Well, what we’ve
seen in our studies, hand sanitizers used
routinely, disinfecting wipes, and social distancing
seem to work the best. In more recent work, in
looking at how viruses move in the home, we found
that actually bar soap in cloth towels you
dry your hands with, face towels, basically,
can also serve ways of spreading
micro-organisms in the home. That’s one reason you
don’t see bar soaps in public facilities ’cause
they can get contaminated and one person can pick
up a virus to another. We’ve collected several
hundred towels from homes and actually, within a few
days you get fecal bacteria. They’re usually growing in
it because they stay wet, they stay moist, you
don’t get all the bacteria on your hands when
you wash your hands and they contaminate towels. So what you should do
is you separate towels for individuals in the
homes and change ’em every two to three days and
you use liquid soap if you can. – We don’t always get
sick so over time, do our bodies just
adjust to some of these? – Well, you don’t
get always sick but you’re gambling
with germs all the time. You have the right hygiene
habits washing your hands on a frequent basis particularly
you’re out in public and that staying home
when you’re ill is a thing so you’re a running a germ
gauntlet all the time. And the idea with
using hand sanitizers or disinfecting wipes,
washing your hands is to keep the odds in your
favor and not the germs’ favor. – Now you’ve been at the U
of A for nearly 40 years, you were here for SARS, H1N1,
now you’re here for corona, are we learning something
from all these illnesses? – Yeah, I think eventually,
we’re learning something. Micro-organisms don’t give up. I mean, basically
we’re their food supply and they can evolve
very rapidly. So this is kind of
what’s been expected. Also, the human population is
growing to much larger numbers so they’re more likely
for organisms to adapt and spread very rapidly
through large populations like we’re seeing
so this won’t be the last virus that we see and hopefully we’ll be better
prepared in the future. – Okay, Dr. Gerba, thank you.
– Thank you.

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