Coronavirus fight with Hand hygiene
The incubation period for COVID-19 is on average 5 to 6 days.

Hand hygiene as an important protection measure against the coronavirus

The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), and the infectious disease it causes, is currently raising a lot of questions and concerns. Thorough hand hygiene and social distancing are considered critical measures to prevent contracting the coronavirus.

Covid-19 is the official abbreviation of the infection caused by the pathogen SARS-CoV-2, which was first reported in China at the end of 2019. The virus has spread globally, and is now classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). All continents of the world report cases of Covid-19 infection, with the exception of Antarctica. In total, more than 697,000 people worldwide have become infected with the novel coronavirus – and as of March 30th, more than 33,200 cases have ended fatally.

In order to protect yourself and those around you, it is important to recognize the symptoms of an infection and to adapt your behaviour to the situation.

Symptoms of a coronavirus infection

Coronaviruses cause various diseases in humans, from common colds to pneumonia. Not all infections with this corona virus are severe, and most cases reported to date in China have been mild.

Flatten the curve with hand hygiene

The main transmission route is via droplet infection. Droplet infections can occur directly from person to person via the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, or indirectly via hands which are then brought into contact with the eyes or the mucous membranes of the mouth or nose. Transmission via inanimate surfaces has not yet been documented. Infection via surfaces, such as imported goods, postal items or luggage, therefore appears unlikely. The incubation period, i.e. the time from infection to the appearance of the first symptoms of the disease, is on average 5 to 6 days, but can be up to 14 days. The following symptoms can occur in an infection (disease) individually, or in combination:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Dry cough
  • Neck Scratching
  • Headaches and aching limbs
  • Rarely diarrhea

In a survey by the Robert Koch Institute, fever (in over 80 percent of cases) and coughing (in over 60 percent of cases) are reported as by far the most common symptoms of Covid-19 infections. Elderly people, smokers and people with certain pre-existing conditions, such as patients with coronary heart disease or diabetes mellitus, are at increased risk of severe disease progression.

How can I prevent infection?

  • If you have to cough or sneeze, turn away
  • Use a paper tissue only 1x. Dispose of it afterwards in a trash can with lid
  • Disinfect all surfaces that are touched by hands once per day, and after contact from a symptomatic person
  • Immediately place all used dishes in dishwasher or clean thoroughly
  • In the absence of a handkerchief, cover your mouth and nose with the crook of your arm when you cough or sneeze
  • Allow at least 1 m distance between you and other persons.
  • Avoid large crowds
  • Avoid shaking hands
  • Keep your hands away from your face
  • Important: After coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or disinfect them with an alcohol-based hand disinfectant that has a spectrum including enveloped viruses
  • If you have a cold and you have to move around in public places, wear mouthnose protection (e.g. surgical mask) to reduce the risk of infecting other people
  • With droplets produced by coughing or sneezing. Be advised, however, there is not sufficient evidence that wearing a mask significantly reduces the risk of infection for a healthy person wearing it

If you do experience symptoms of a viral infection of the respiratory tract, consult with your supervisor and stay away from work if possible, to prevent the spread of infection to your colleagues.

Currently there is no specific treatment against the novel coronavirus itself. The symptoms themselves can be treated, such as lowering fever or loosening mucus buildup. When to seek medical assistance must be decided individually, and is dependent on the severity of the disease and whether there are other relevant underlying diseases to consider.

In order to effectively protect oneself from coronavirus, one should apply the usual infection protection measures for droplet infections. A crucial component of this is thorough hand hygiene. Hand sanitizers used should at least have limited virucidal efficacy.

Dr. Andreas Glöckner MD

Personal hygiene and self-isolation measures are critical steps, as health authorities make great efforts to detect infections as early as possible and delay the spread of the virus. By keeping the number of people who fall ill at the same time as low as possible, we can work to mitigate the burden on the healthcare system and avoid peaks while the development of antiviral drugs and vaccines are underway.

To ensure effective protection against infection, opportunities for hand hygiene must be made widely available.


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