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Hear from a leading expert: How to be safe and not get infected

Some of the most pressing questions about the novel coronavirus answered

Update : 30 Mar 2020, 02:13 PM

How long can the Covid-19 coronavirus live on your t-shirt? Should you disinfect the bags after you buy groceries? These are some of the questions Dr Martin Blaser answers in a video put out by renowned tech publication WIRED. Dr Blaser is a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Rutgers University and chair of the Human Microbiome.

Although the public are now mostly familiar with many of the most important hygiene practices recommended by medical professionals for preventing spread of the virus, many finer points still remain uncertain. This Q&A has those answers from one of the world leading experts on the subject. 

Can you use normal kitchen cleaners to wash the virus off surfaces?

Dr Blaser says ‘yes.’ “The good news is that the virus is susceptible to many different kinds of cleaners, whether it's soap and water or alcohol,” he said. Cleaning things off, even with soap and water will do a terrific job, according to this expert. 

Should you wash your clothes after coming home from outside?

Everyone knows by now that you have to wash your hands frequently to keep the virus away. Many people have resorted to washing their clothes everytime they come back home from outside, which could be very high maintenance. The good news is you probably don’t have to do this, says Dr Blaser. 

“I'm not aware of evidence that the virus ever has been transmitted from clothing, and I think if it occurs, it's very infrequent,” he said. 

The solution is relievingly simple. “You perhaps can lower the risk from clothing by not shaking it in the air. That might dislodge the virus. Clothing turns out to be very sticky for viruses, so if a virus gets to the clothing, it'll probably stay there unless you dislodge it,” said Dr Blaser. 

What about groceries? Do you have to disinfect every bag and every packet?

Unsurprisingly, there is a risk of getting the virus from bags coming from outside. Dr Blaser says you have to exercise caution and maintain standard protection. “Wear gloves when you're taking things out of the plastic bags,and then throw the bags away. If you touch the plastic bags, wash your hands with soap and water. Then your risk should be zero,” he said. 

The flu comes once or twice a year, then goes away.

Does having a regular cold make you more vulnerable to Covid-19?

It appears that it might be a blessing in disguise if you already have a cold or the flu. Even though you could get the coronavirus on top, it will be unlikely, informs Dr Blaser. 

“When you have a viral infection, your immune responses are all revved up. So, usually you do not get a second viral infection. If you have the flu, and coronavirus lands on you, probably your revved up immune system will eliminate it,” he said. 

However, this is not a certainty, said Dr Blaser, but based on the general understanding of infectious diseases. 

Should I use hot water to wash clothes? 

Thankfully, just regular washing with detergent gets rid of most viruses. “Any detergent lowers the virus. Any use of bleach will eliminate the virus,” said Dr Blaser. So, all these things together pretty much make laundry free from virus transmission.


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