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Sanitizing against viral pathogens

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Grocery Sanitizing

I worked for two days, and now I have a day off. So, that means I’m back here! Friends of mine have been sharing things on Facebook on how to sanitize your groceries as they come in the door. This video will be helpful. Edit March 30, 2020 - Please note that the MD in this video is using information from this scientific article.

If you can recall from my previous post, the coronavirus is an enveloped virus. It’s the envelope around that virus that makes it more susceptible to disinfectants (compared to non-enveloped viruses). Just remember, like washing your hands, the contact time is important. Contact time is the time the disinfectant is on the material before drying, or rinsing. For example, 20 seconds of soapy contact to your skin will neutralize the virus. It is not as important how vigorous you scrub, but the duration of time that the soap is on your hands. We learn this during our surgical training for sterile preparation and hand washing in veterinary school. It is also why the cleaning wipes are better than spraying and wiping dry. In the video, you can see the medical doctor sprays the paper towel, soaking it with the disinfectant, then uses it to wipe surfaces. You can use soapy water to scrub your fruits and vegetables. The same rule of 20 seconds in suds applies.

If you are like me and you live in a condo, you do not have the luxury of leaving your groceries in a garage or porch. If you're fortunate, you may have a little area in your entrance way that you could set up a disinfection station. Have your wipes or paper towel and disinfectant set up there. Have a disposal bin or bag ready there.

Again, if you've gone out and not maintained distance from infected individuals, viral organisms may be sitting on your clothes or hair, especially if you are a front line worker (think about that cashier at the grocery store, at least some have plexiglass protection). My laundry facility is in my front entrance, and I immediately throw my scrubs in the wash. I started doing this when I started at my new clinic because my previous one had laundry onsite for all scrubs, and this new clinic forces me to bring home contaminants (insert gross things like feces, blood, urine, saliva, anal sac juices, etc) from the clinic. Now, I go directly to the shower, to ensure that anything on my skin or hair is washed off. There really isn't much else you can do when the anal sac explodes in your face. So, if you feel like you have put yourself in harms way at the grocery store with someone heavily breathing near you, then do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Clean yourselves.

The common cold and influenza viruses will also be addressed with the above measures. I wanted to include some of the measures I have been using to address other enveloped viruses such at influenza. Number one: this is always wash your hands before touching your face, before eating, after using the restroom, simple, but not... because I see people rinsing their hands without the use of soap.

Essential oil blends have been tested in a petri dish and showed a reduction in influenza viral replication by potentially inhibiting viral protein translation (the process during replication that involves building the amino acid chains from mRNA). In addition to H1N1 (influenza), these had antiviral properties in the laboratory setting against herpes simplex (responsible for cold sores in people). Now, just because it works in a Petri dish does not mean it works in or on the body, however, using it as a cleaner, in the appropriate concentration, as well as similar to using any of the disinfectants available, with the appropriate contact time, does have potential. A lot of people prefer to use natural cleansing products due to health risks (breathing in chlorine from high concentrated bleach doesn't do your lungs well).

For most infectious organisms, the level of disease is dose dependent. Highly virulent strains of viruses only require a single viral particle, while lower virulent strains require a higher number to show symptoms in their host. I have yet to find literature as to how many virions are required to cause infection for COVID-19. What we do know is that it is more infectious than influenza.

Edit March 29, 2020: A nurse friend of mine passed on some information from a medical doctor in the U.S. Dr. Cedric Jamie Rutland. The video is a month old now, but still has some good information. There's some more recent immunology info on his instagram story highlights. Here's a newer video posted this week.

Edit March 30, 2020: Friend's of mine retorted that the tests on length of time that SARS-CoV-2 remains in the air is over-estimated because these were in laboratory settings. I understand, similar to how antimicrobials and antiviral medications work in a petri dish, not all laboratory tests can be extrapolated to real life.

Canadian political leaders are saying that if you are healthy, not symptomatic (no sneezing, coughing), you can feel free to go for a walk or run outside, but to continue to maintain social distancing. I personally would say, exercise caution. Check out this news article that demonstrates what we already believe, SARS-CoV-2 is spread through aerosolized droplets. Heavy breathing, through running and singing, or even highly animated talking can aerosolize viral particles. None of these choir singers were showing symptoms, now two are dead. They suspect it can last in the air for about half an hour under normal environmental conditions (in the lab the half-life in aerosols was 1 hour). So if you think you are safe to go for a run on a communal path, you probably shouldn’t.


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