We have many evidence-based methods for coronavirus prevention. Unfortunately, there are also many rumors and myths on the internet. I’ve received many questions about common strategies. Here are the answers to your questions. Let’s spread this accurate information to help prevent COVID-19 infection!
If I have been exposed to COVID-19 from a coworker what precautions should I take?
This is a very important question with several action items. Effective coronavirus prevention starts with answering these questions:
- Were you within 6 feet of the infected individual for a prolonged period of time?
- Were you ever coughed or sneezed on by the individual?
Since asymptomatic people can spread virus, it doesn’t matter if the coworker was having symptoms at the time. If you answered “yes” to the above questions, you are at high exposure risk, and the most prudent action is to stay home and quarantine for 14 days. If you live with somebody else, you should effectively self-isolate from healthy people. The CDC explains this nicely here. The incubation period for coronavirus may be up to two weeks, hence the recommendation for 14 days.
Guidelines are changing, however, and workers in certain critical jobs may still be safe to return to work. You can view the official CDC recommendations here. Feel free to contact me if you have more personal questions or circumstances.
Risk of coronavirus contamination from meat at grocery store or local butcher
There is always a chance of any food surface being contaminated with coronavirus. Fortunately, coronavirus is destroyed at cooking temperatures (around 60°C). The greater risk of infection will be from packaging and wrapping of the meat. Be sure to wash your hands after handling any meat. Also dispose of the packaging as soon as you can and wash your hands after doing so.
How long does coronavirus live on clothing and does it depend on different materials/fabrics?
SARS-CoV-2 can live on inanimate objects for hours up to days (17 days observed on the Diamond Princess). However, we do not know whether that virus can still be infectious or not. Furthermore, there are many considerations about the surface type, just as you asked. Unfortunately, we do not know how long virus can live on different clothing types. Therefore, my advice is to promptly launder any clothes that may have been exposed to coronavirus. For example, if you go to the grocery store, it is prudent to wash clothes as soon as you come home. Please wash your hands after handling any clothes exposed to the outside world.
Can you get infected if a sick person sneezes and you happen to walk through that area in next 1-30 minutes ?
A very good question. It is theoretically possible that coronavirus can remain suspended in the air for up to three hours. However, how long it stays in that place depends on many factors. The presence of any wind, HVAC, the humidity, and other people walking through the area will all change where the virus is distributed. Furthermore, the infectious risk is difficult to quantify.
So what do we do? Social distancing is one of the most important things we can do for coronavirus prevention. Please see this post on why we must be extra cautious to distance farther than 6 feet in the presence of wind and when people are walking or running.
Can I wash raw vegetables in a mixture of vinegar and water? How can you reduce the chance of transmission from uncooked fruit and vegetables while consuming a healthy diet?
This is a fantastic question! I wish people asked this more often.
Vinegar is NOT effective at killing SARS-CoV-2, please see my post on safe disinfectants here. Washing fresh produce with tap water is likely to be safe.
It is highly unlikely to contract COVID-19 from swallowing food, even if there is virus present on the food. When eating, it is more likely to contract COVID-19 from the utensils. Remember, contaminated utensils can reach your face and mucous membranes to directly cause infection.
The best advice currently is to follow a consistent grocery plan to minimize contact with exposed surfaces in the first place:
- Go at off-peak hours to minimize exposure to crowds.
- Make a shopping list ahead of time to avoid touching unnecessary items in the grocery store. Only touch what you will purchase.
- Bring hand sanitizer with you and use liberally.
- Follow strict social distancing at all times.
- Dispose of any packaging materials as soon as you can before entering your home. Wash your hands after doing so.
Can sweat (eg while exercising) transmit coronavirus?
Coronavirus spread falls under three categories:
- Contact: virus lives on surfaces, and we touch those surfaces and then touch the mucous membranes of our face
- Droplet: virus lives in water droplets that are expelled from our nose and mouth when we cough or sneeze, and those droplets come in contact with the susceptible parts of our bodies to infect us
- Airborne: very small suspensions of virus persist in the air for extended periods of time when we breath, cough, or sneeze, and come in contact with the susceptible parts of our bodies to infect us
We believe that contact and droplet routes are the most common methods of coronavirus transmission. Airborne spread is also possible, but we believe that to account for a smaller portion of transmission (see my previous post).
Practically, being nearby someone who is exercising puts you at risk of droplet and airborne transmission. Transmission through contact is also certainly possible, regardless of whether they have sweat on their skin or not. When people are breathing hard or running, the virus can spread for up to 32 feet around them. Therefore, please take strict precautions when you are nearby people who are exercising for coronavirus prevention.
How about shoes? Try to keep them outside? Or just away from where the family spends their time?
Coronavirus can spread through direct contact (see above). Therefore, it is theoretically possible for contaminated shoes to result in infection. Coronavirus has indeed been detected on shoes, as well, adding to the plausibility of this transmission route. It is prudent to leave shoes outside the home if possible. If not, keeping them away from areas where household members spend time is the next safest approach.
Cleaning fruits and vegetables for salad to disinfect coronavirus – can I use chlorine or bleach?
This is an important question. I covered safe disinfecting methods extensively in a previous post. You should always wash fruits and vegetables before consuming. However, cold tap water is considered a safe approach. Do not use bleach to rinse produce, as there is a risk of contaminating your fresh produce and consuming the bleach, which can be toxic.
That being said, you are doing a fantastic job by eating salad to boost your nutrition and immune system!
Can you kill COVID-19 with the microwave?
This is a very reasonable question because we know coronavirus is destroyed at high temperatures. Unfortunately, this has not been tested in microwaves. There is significant heterogeneity of microwave heating patterns, so I would not depend on a microwave to kill the virus.
What are the best practices to protect household members in case someone at home gets sick?
If you are sick with COVID-19 (or have had a high risk exposure to someone with COVID-19), follow these guidelines:
- Stay in a separate room from others (“sick room”).
- Wear a mask if around others or in a car (use masks appropriately!).
- Follow strict hand hygiene, don’t touch your face, and cough in your elbow.
- Wipe all surfaces often (doorknobs, kitchen counters, etc.).
- Do not share utensils with healthy people.
- Avoid touching pets or other animals (virus on their fur can theoretically infect healthy people).
CDC has recommendations you can read here, too.
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We all need to spread accurate information to stay safe against COVID-19. If you found this helpful, please share this information with your family and friends!
If you have more questions, I want to answer them! You can e-mail me here.
The information provided in this post in intended for general education. It is not medical advice. While I make every effort to provide the most up-to-date information, please note that new data is continuously becoming available and may change the conclusions I present here.