Coronavirus science | Week in review: Covid safety while shopping, and tips for recovery



READ | Do sanitising sprays on trolley handles really kill the coronavirus?

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit South African shores earlier this year, retail stores have been doing their best to battle the spread of the virus.

In addition to the usual disinfectant trolley wipes, most stores have an employee at store entrances to spritz trolley handles with sanitising liquid - often contained in an unlabelled bottle.

However, some disinfectants may not contain the correct levels of alcohol to effectively kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Rhodes University tested sanitisers at an Eastern Cape boarding school, where more than 200 staff and pupils tested positive for the virus this year, and found that they only contained only 57.6% alcohol – less than the required minimum alcohol content, News24 reported.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol-based sanitisers need to contain at least 60% alcohol to effectively kill the virus.

According to Bernard Reeksting, chemical scientist and former director of the Centre for Polymer Technology at the CSIR, even if a spray kills SARS-CoV-2, it may not necessarily be the most effective way of disinfecting surfaces.

READ | Woman suffers brain fluid leak after having nasal test for Covid-19

A 40-year-old US woman who underwent a Covid-19 nasal swab test experienced more than just an uncomfortable itch and tickle; the swab procedure ended up rupturing the lining at the base of her skull, causing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to leak from her nose and putting her at risk of brain infection.

The case was reported in the medical journal, JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery this week.

The doctors wrote that the patient had an rare undiagnosed condition, and that the test she received may have been carried out improperly, causing the rupture. This means that health risks associated with nasal swab tests remain very low.

The patient had a compulsory Covid-19 test ahead of an elective hernia surgery.

Shortly afterwards, she started noticing clear fluid coming out of one nostril, and subsequently developed headache, vomiting, neck stiffness, metallic taste and photophobia (aversion to light), the case report reads.

Although her case is a rare event, Jarrett Walsh, senior author of the paper told AFP that her case shows that healthcare professionals should take special care to follow testing protocols closely, and that patients who have undergone extensive sinus or skull base surgery should consider requesting oral testing if available.

READ | Most Covid infections are mild - so what if you're infected? Some 'common-sense' tips for recovery

There's no magic bullet for recovering from Covid-19. If you have a mild case and can recover at home, it's best to treat it like you would the flu.

Professor Christine Jenkins, a respiratory disease expert from UNSW Medicine, says you should apply "common-sense rules" to your recovery.

Here are some of them:

Rest, rest, rest

If you were not hospitalised and are recovering at home, the best thing you can do is make your bed super comfortable and ride it out with your favourite TV shows, as advised by Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Don't overexert yourself, sleep lots, with no late nights or early mornings and be kind to yourself. Mental rest is as important as physical rest.

Stay hydrated

As with any disease, you can become dehydrated quickly and it's important to maintain your fluid intake. Water is your best friend in this case, and make sure to avoid caffeine and alcohol as these can dehydrate you.

Eat the right foods

Just like when recovering from the flu, there are some foods that can help speed up the process while still providing comfort.

READ | Poorly developed immune response could most likely lead to Covid-19 reinfection, research suggests

As Covid-19 spreads, many experts are questioning the validity of the herd immunity theory. Researchers are asking whether it will be possible to stave off Covid-19 as more people develop antibodies.

While previous research has shown that recovery from Covid-19 is associated with a production of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, it is still uncertain whether these antibodies can provide long-term immunity.

There is also the ongoing question of Covid-19 reinfection – where people test positive twice for SARS-CoV-2. Although the phenomenon is not well understood at this stage, reinfection could lead scientists to an effective vaccine and better treatment.

In a recent pre-print case study that appeared on the database medRxiv, a team from the University of Washington investigated a case that suggests a poorly developed immune response and waning antibody levels could make people more susceptible to reinfection.

The case study refers to a care-home resident in their sixties who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after developing severe pneumonia. After more than a month in hospital, the patient tested negative.

In July, however, the patient tested positive again – this time with much milder symptoms, including a slight cough and shortness of breath.

READ | Researchers calling for loss of smell to be recognised globally as Covid-19 symptom

When the Covid-19 outbreak started, most guidelines listed the main symptoms as fever, a cough and fatigue. But as the disease progressed, many people reported a variety of symptoms. One of these, loss of smell, was reported by may patients and is now recognised by the UK medical guidelines as one of the key symptoms.

New research also suggests that this symptom could be significant for guidelines and help medical professionals and potential patients to recognise Covid-19 more rapidly, which could spur on self-isolation and help curb the spread of the disease.

According to a new study published in PLOS Medicine, four out of five people experiencing a loss of smell and/or taste tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies, while 40% of those did not even experience a cough or fever.

The study was conducted by Professor Rachel Batterham and colleagues from the University of London.

While loss of smell and/or taste seems to be a key indicator of Covid-19, the link is not yet fully understood.

For their study, the team verified symptoms via telemedicine consultations and then performed an antibody test on 567 participants who experienced a loss of smell and/or taste.

SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 690 896.

According to the latest update, 17 673 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 622 153 recoveries.

So far, nearly 4.39 million tests have been conducted, with 28 066 new tests reported.

Global cases update:

For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

Early on Sunday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 37.08 million, while deaths were more than 1.07 million.

The United States had the most cases in the world - almost more than 7.71 million, as well as the most deaths - more than 214 000.

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Maintain physical distancing – stay at least one metre away from somebody who is coughing or sneezing

• Practise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as your hands touch many surfaces and could potentially transfer the virus

• Practise respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dispose the tissue immediately after use.

Image credit: Getty Images

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