How does soap use help in tackling COVID-19?-THE HINDU-15-03-2020


How does washing with soap help get rid of the coronavirus?

Washing with water without using soap helps reduce the amount of microbes but does not remove most of the virus and bacteria completely. Being oleophilic, the tail portion of the molecule tends to have an affinity for and ‘competes’ with the lipids in the virus envelope. Since the chemical bonds holding the virus together are not very strong, the long oleophilic tail gets inserted into the envelope and tends to have a ‘crowbar’ effect that breaks the lipid envelope of the virus. The tail also competes with the bond that binds the RNA and the lipid envelop thus dissolving the virus into its components which are then removed by water.

Do all viruses have the lipid layer?

No, certain viruses do not have the lipid envelop and are called the non-enveloped viruses. The oil-loving tail of the soap molecule also disrupts the bond that binds dirt and non-enveloped viruses to the hand. The dirt and viruses are surrounded by several tails making them remain as suspended particles.

How do alcohol-based hand sanitisers help get rid of coronavirus?

Like soap, the alcohol present in hand sanitisers dissolve the lipid envelop, thus inactivating the virus. The mushroom-shaped protein structures help the virus to bind to special structures found on human cells and enter the cells. Unlike water, alcohol run does not remove the dead viruses from the hand.

Should healthy people who are not taking care of COVID-19 patients use a mask?

Medical masks help prevent the spread of coronavirus infection. If worn properly, masks may be effective in preventing transmission of coronavirus. An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says there is no evidence to suggest that masks worn by healthy individuals can help prevent infection. Transmission through droplets from coughing and sneezing is one of the major routes of virus spread.

When worn correctly, a mask can reduce the risk of inhaling droplets containing the virus. With many studies showing that people infected with novel coronavirus transmit the virus even before symptoms show up, it may be prudent to wear a mask especially when the virus is spreading in the community.

What other precautions should be taken when a mask is used?

It should be combined with hand hygiene to prevent human-to-human transmission. Wearing medical masks can give a person a “false sense of security that can lead to neglecting other essential measures such as hand hygiene practices”. So if an individual decides to wear a mask, care must be taken to regularly wash hands with soap or alcohol rub, and avoid touching the face with hands. Incorrect mask wearing might otherwise reduce the effectiveness in cutting the risk of transmission.

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