How to minimize the risk of catching coronavirus

How to minimize the risk of catching coronavirus

Features of the epidemiological process and expert’s advice on how to protect yourself and others from getting infected by the novel SARS CoV-2 virus

Ukraine and the world continue struggling with the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. Since March 12, 2020, a three-week quarantine has been introduced in all educational establishments, and since March 17, quarantine measures have been increased significantly in Ukraine. First of all, it is necessary to keep calm in such situations, be responsible and get the information and pieces of advice on how to protect yourself from getting infected by SARS CoV-19 coronavirus only from experts or from reliable information platforms. Therefore, we talked to Anton Kohutych who has 30 years’ experience of teaching the course of infectious diseases to students, PhD, associate professor of the Department of Microbiology, Virology and Epidemiology.

This infectious agent has successfully crossed the interspecies barrier and become dangerous not only to animals but also to humans. Today, we do not have immunity against this disease, people are virtually helpless in the face of it. Only non-specific parts of our immune system and our understanding of the features of the epidemiological process in this infectious disease can counteract it.

 Each infectious disease is characterized by its epidemiological process, and the peculiarities of its spread among the human population. This process consists of the source of the pathogenic agent (the virus is transmitted from person to person), the mechanisms of spread (airborne, through fomites) and the susceptible contingent to the given infectious agent in the human population. It should be remembered that with collective immunity close to 95%, the epidemiological process becomes impossible (in other words, when we have immunity against a given pathogen). Given the fact that all people on our planet have not been in contact with this pathogen before, we are all susceptible to it and potentially we can all be infected by this pathogenic agent. What can we influence in terms of the epidemiological process? We can influence the "source" - the earliest possible detection and isolation of each patient with coronavirus infection. Therefore, people are checked when crossing the state border to identify all suspicious cases.

Unfortuntely, we can influence the third stage of the epidemiological process, "susceptible organism", only with nonspecific methods like conditioning to the cold, balanced diet, enough sleep, rest, etc. The most effective measures available to all of us are the impact on the second stage of the epidemiological process: "mechanisms of spread".

How can we prevent the transmission of an infectious pathogen from a sick person to a healthy person?

The first thing to remember is that COVID-19 is an airborne decease, so:

• beware of people who have signs of SARS;

• try to stay away from other people at the distance of 1-1.5 meters, preferably 2 meters;

• avoid the rooms with large numbers of people;

 • reduce contacts with strangers and unhealthy people.

The Coronavirus also spreads through contact with fomites, the virus can stay on objects for a long time, get onto your hands and then to your mucous membranes (nose, mouth, eyes). Therefore, you need to develop the following habits:

• wash your hands as often as possible;

• treat hands with antiseptics;

• do not touch your face with your hands.

 Introduction of distance learning at our university is aimed at minimizing direct contacts among students and lecturers, and thus preventing the spread of the virus. Students went home as if on holidays. On the other hand, distance learning should test our students’ self-organization abilities, and teach them to be responsible.

As a teacher of infectious diseases course with 30 years of experience, I am very well aware of the complexity of the current situation with the coronavirus. I see myself participating in the activities that are aimed at preventing the spread of this disease among people. I am convinced that we will all together overcome COVID-19 and will begin the next academic year in good health to implement our curricula effectively.