Environmental Health Measures for Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The novel coronavirus (COVID -19) is considered as an ‘airborne route’ disease. The virus tends to spread via direct contact or droplets from contaminated surfaces. There is no evidence illustrating infectious viruses captured from air sampling. Wet droplets originate from sneezing, talking or coughing ranged from 5-10 micrometre (PM5-10) are the main carriers of the virus in the air and ground immediately within few seconds on the surface. The particles smaller than 5 micrometres ( <PM5) suspended in the air and contains the viruses which are considered as airborne virus and it is called droplet nuclei.

Another threat will be the humid environment such as rainy days or tropic and sub-tropic regions due to high relative humidity. The virus is water-soluble and may remain in moisture surface up to 9 days. Some expert advised the swimming pools are safe from coronavirus but this is not proven and the virus will remain in moisture. The virus can travel far away from an infected person or contaminated air droplets even more than six feet (about 182 cm) of a person and remains airborne up to 3 hours’ post aerosolization. Coronavirus survives on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days that is not certain. The coronavirus may not go away in warmer weather despite an earlier recommendation by experts as it again appears in Malaysia and most probably it won’t go away because of high humidity and frequent rainy days.

It is interesting to know that men have more tendency to infection than women. Estrogen in women has a protective effect, therefore men maybe being more susceptible to coronaviruses and estrogen injections or pills won’t help men to use as a prevention method. In the congested area, the unfiltered air conditioning the disease may spread faster. This is a very alarming phenomenon for a humid country like Malaysia. Personal protective equipment precautions such as respirator masks, filtered air conditioning is recommended as well hand-sanitizer.

Preventive measures are important to protect and prevent yourself from the Covid19 such as not touching your face (mouth, eyes, nose) in any circumstances, wash your hands every one-hour using soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds or clean them using Ethyl alcohol 70%. For surface disinfection, apply diluted household bleach solutions (5 tablespoons or 1/3 of a cup of bleach into one gallon of water) or 70% alcohol-based sanitizer. Avoid social and physical contacts within the minimum range of 1.5-2 meter this includes dining out.

Additionally, the use of disposable gloves is recommended and wet surfaces in the bathroom must be kept dry. Hide your face between in your flexed elbow during a sudden cough or sneeze and dispose of the used tissue after coughing and sneezing into a closed bin. Self-isolation is vital if the person developed any coughs and fever. Alarmingly, handphones are the most contaminated objects we should avoid exposing them frequently.   

Preventive measures can minimize the risk of infection in key environments for community and non-healthcare facilities such as schools, institution and offices.  

Associate Professor Dr. Nasrin Aghamohammadi (Environmental Health Engineer), Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Email:nasrin@ummc.edu.my