Coronavirus: A Lack of useful Information
Written by Dr Klaus L E Kaiser
It really upsets me when I hear on radio or see on TV newscasts some groups of people dutifully “disinfecting” whole streets by spraying them with “disinfectants” of one kind or another.
Of course, washing hands is always a good first step. And the health authorities’ advice in that regard is certainly good, like the information at Canada’s website (image, top)
This Government of Canada website at https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html (accessed on March 13, 2020, 2150 EDT), provides only one basic advice, namely thorough handwashing.
There’s nothing wrong with that advice per se, but is not an advice on “disinfection” of any surface that may harbor the corona or another type of virus.
There is a fundamental difference between “Cleansing” and “Disinfection”
A “cleansing agent”, such as ordinary soap, dish-washer detergent, and the like needs some additional “action” to do their Job. Rubbing your hands with the soap, using several stages of wash and rinse cycles in the dishwasher, or wiping the counter with a cloth are such actions. However, none of those are truly “100% disinfecting.”
However, for organisms like viruses, that can survive for days on all kinds of surfaces other than skin, that ”cleansing” alone, obviously, is insufficient to stop the spread of such organisms. For example, the COVID-19 virus has been claimed to be able to survive on metal and plastic surfaces for up to 72 hours. Other data suggest this survival time to be much lower. It likely depends very much on the air humidity, temperature, surface properties and so on.
If one wants to “disinfect” a surface, as opposed to “cleansing” it, one needs a more rigorous method, .i.e. real the application of disinfectant.
If it’s so simple to “disinfect”, i.e. to destroy bacteria and viruses, why do our governments not state – publicly, in newspaper, radio, and TV ads – what to use, where, when, and how for all citizens to know?
HOW and WITH WHAT MATERIAL does one best disinfect, at home, in schools, and anywhere what can easily be disinfected? I have not seen any advice from my government sources. There is none to be had. For example, a simple search on Google for “government Canada disinfection advisory 2020” provides only limited information on materials to be useful for disinfection ( https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/health-professionals/interim-guidance-cases-contacts.html ).
I consider this as a severe lack of readily available, practical and useful information for the population at large, actually as a sad “case.”
Commercial “disinfectants” are widely available in many stores. They often go with fanciful names and (claimed) attributes. But not all such products (some coming in a large number of variations) are real disinfectants.
True disinfection requires the use of a material that actually KILLS the germs, preferably on the spot.
One of the best, fast acting and widely available materials at low cost is (more or less) absolute “ethyl alcohol” also known as ethanol or simply “alcohol.” That’s stuff is commonly available in drug stores at 75% or higher concentration. It quickly destroys any live tissue or organism by one simple mechanism, namely by dehydration. That process kills the organisms very quickly and efficiently.
Make sure to carefully read the labels of on such things, if it doesn’t say 70% ethanol or so, it’s probably not what you want to use for effective disinfection.
Yes, that ethyl alcohol is the same stuff you may drink in beer, wine, or other alcoholic drink, except at much lower concentrations.
And, just in case of an emergency and you can’t find any ethanol anywhere, common “rubbing alcohol,” a slightly different “chemical” (isopropanol, or 2-propanol) that is widely available as a 70% solution, would almost be as good a disinfectant as high-grade ethanol. In fact, a very similar concoction to rubbing alcohol is widely used in Germany under the tradename Sterillium. It is certainly not to be consumed, even if diluted.
To paraphrase Paracelsus (1493-1541), slightly expanded here, “it’s not just the dose but also the concentration that makes the poison.”
And a Cautionary Note
The CTV TV aired this evening (March 23, 2020) a full hour interview with Dr. A. Sharkawy (Univ. Toronto) in which he recommended a dilute solution of common household bleach to be used as a spray for disinfection. I strongly recommend against that. Its highly caustic properties can easily cause painful burns on the skin, respiratory problems, and blindness in eyes.
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