During a pandemic like this, one may be worried about the cheapest method of virus inactivation at home. Well, Viruses are the most abundant and tiniest of creatures. For instance, the rhinoviruses that cause the common cold can be so small that 500 million of it would barely fit into a pinhead. Technically, viruses are barely considered living things, but, a sandwich of proteins and genetic materials capable of survival and replication.
They can practically infect all life forms including bacteria!!! So, its size isn’t the only striking feature.
On its own, a virus is functionally inactive until it enters a living cell referred to as a host. The virus outside a host is vulnerable, so much so that a solvent/detergent treatment is the method of choice to inactivate lipid-coat enveloped viruses such as the novel coronavirus.
Regardless of this extracellular vulnerability, viruses are favored by dynamic environmental conditions. In other words, a virus becomes deathly in a favorable environment. Thankfully, there are actions to inactivate a multitude of known and unknown viruses while in their extracellular environment. A few of these will be highlighted.
Virus inactivation at home?
The subject of virus inactivation during a pandemic cannot be over flogged. Physically, our homes may feel clean and tidy yet millions of germs remain suspended in the air in the formed aerosol and on the surfaces we touch each day. Contrary to popular belief, as people, we live and interact with viruses quite often. This definitely leaves room for infection.
In the course of the pandemic, here are simple ways to go about virus inactivation or decreasing the survival of viruses (including coronaviruses) on surfaces and in the air around you.
How to disinfect your environment by controlling humidity (Amount of water vapor in the air)
In cold, dry weather, especially during winter, temperatures and humidity levels can drop to as low as 10%. This makes our eyes feel dry and easily irritated and our skins get flaky and itchy. As humidity intensifies, it dries out the mucous membrane lining the respiratory tract. This makes us more prone to nosebleeds, cold, flu, and other infections such as COVID-19.
To live through this, we begin to spend significantly more time indoors and this poses another health risk.
In 2013, a review of nearly 40 peer-reviewed studies conducted over the last decade showed that people who kept their homes at 40-60% relative humidity had fewer flu viruses lingering in the air and on surfaces like sink faucets, door handles, and countertops. This invariably means these people had fewer cases during the flu season.
The use of a portable humidifier can impede virus survival in the air and decrease its potency if the relative humidity is promptly regulated.
Using a humidifier also relieves nasal congestions and coughs during winter. Its use is highly recommended by the American Academy of Paediatrics.
How can one measure humidity levels at home? A hygrometer. Hygrometers provide a digital, yet readable data of the relative humidity in your home and are quite affordable.
How to use UV (Ultra Violet )lights to inactivate viruses
The use of germicidal UV light is capable of inactivating microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses. It is known that 1 to 3 hours exposure would reduce the amount of virus tenfold (i.e. from 1,000 particles to 100); seemingly, it would merely take four times as long to reduce 1,000 viral particles to less than 1. Hence, UV light is mutagenic (affecting an organism’s genetic material).
There are lots of lightweight disinfection devices that use ultraviolet light. This may be handy for keyboards, a computer mouse, and other hand-held devices. Other gadgets like humidifiers with a UV light chamber helps disinfect viruses, mold, and other bacteria potentially living in the water. WHO recommends this form of disinfection for drinking water for those in Africa.
The devices do not emit smoke when the surface is cleaned as the photons simply spread over a surface for the directed amount of time.
Lest we forget, coronaviruses can be present as aerosols, so this method may not be as effective in the air since the light must reflect from surfaces, and therefore disinfecting large areas is not as feasible.
How to inactivate viruses with an air purifier
Holistically, it is important to regulate the air you breathe in your home. This concept of health resonates with health heroes like Florence Nightingale.
Apparently , the reason the flu takes a heavy toll on people during colder months stems from the fact that most people keep windows sealed, the heat on full blast, stay in close proximity, and therefore cause stagnant, recycled air that can harbor airborne allergens and bacteria.
In manipulating the environment, extra investment in a portable air purifier is needed. An optimal humidifier with a HEPA filter is what most health practitioners recommend.
Air purifiers are capable of sucking up the smallest microbes in the air, and consequently reducing harmful airborne germs that not only include coronaviruses, cold and flu viruses. For those allergic to dust, pollen, mold spores, pet dander, and smoke particles, air purifiers are a worthy possession.
Virus inactivation by thoroughly disinfect surfaces?
In the course of an outbreak, it becomes expedient to take hygiene a little above average. The family tablet, the remote, doorknobs, utensils, etc., are a few details to pay attention to. Cleaning with soap still works. It doesn’t matter the fragrance, so long as it emulsifies and washes off oil and grease. This method does not kill 100% of the germs but physically reduces the number and consequently, their strength.
Use a registered disinfectant that states the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the product for effectiveness against influenza A virus. Finally, always follow label directions on cleaning products and disinfectants.
How frequent washing of linens inactivates viruses
The flu virus thrives on surfaces for several hours — and even longer on more porous surfaces like towels, washcloths, blankets, and linens. While linens don’t need to be washed separately, it is important that they are not shared without being cleaned thoroughly.
Wash bedding, towels, and clothes with household detergent in hot water and tumble dry on a hot setting. Remember to wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling them.
Without a host (cell), viruses would be unable to multiply and survive for long in the extracellular environment. Now that we are faced with a pandemic, it is already past time to defend ourselves against viruses.
In the fight to conquer the virus, our actions shape their intention. This is where the wisdom of physical distancing, self-isolation, hand washing and many other measures put in place to curb further spread during the pandemic come in.
Starting with disinfecting our homes, regularly carrying out routine cleaning will help remove particles on floors, faucets, kitchen areas, and countertops.
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