By Delia DeRiggi-Whitton
Nassau County’s Commissioner of Health Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein recently addressed the Legislature and residents in the audience about the coronavirus (COVID-19). Aside from informing my fellow legislators and myself about the current situation and precautionary measures being undertaken to minimize the spread of COVID-19 throughout the county, he focused on “non-pharmaceutical interventions” or NPIs.
The goal of NPIs is to reduce the impact on society in the case of an epidemic such as COVID-19 through actions that people, communities, government and the medical industry take to help slow the spread of infection. Dr. Eisenstein reviewed several measures we are aware of such as cleaning our hands, covering sneezes, isolating people who are ill, social distancing (avoiding crowds, especially for seniors who are at the greatest risk of serious illness), cleaning/sanitizing and canceling schools/events. However, his explanation on the most critical aspects of hand washing as it relates to destroying viral or bacterial cells and touching our faces was of particular note.
When washing our hands, the most important thing to do is to rub them together vigorously. Friction breaks down and destroys the cell walls of COVID-19 and other viruses or bacteria. Soap helps, but even just warm water with thorough, correct and lengthy (20 seconds) hand washing is what we should all be doing during the COVID-19 outbreak and otherwise. Since COVID-19 is a virus and not bacterial, anti-bacterial hand sanitizer is better than nothing when water isn’t available for washing, but the best method is to rub hands together while washing and ensuring to also rub along and in between fingers.
As for avoiding touching or getting close to our eyes, nose and mouth with our hands, studies show that, on average, people touch their face 25 times per hour. Understanding it can be tough to avoid doing, not touching our faces is important since a virus can enter our bodies through the nose, eyes or mouth via mucus membranes. If your face is itchy, rub it with the inside of your shirt.
While washing fruits and vegetables before eating is always important, it is critical now. Wash them with soap and water as soon as you arrive home from shopping and even wash produce that has a skin (e.g., bananas). Dry them after washing to ensure any potentially harmful viral cells are rubbed off.
Finally, let’s put this outbreak in perspective. While we should all take as many precautions as possible, remember that the vast majority of people who have died from COVID-19 had pre-existing underlying conditions. Almost everyone has had a strain of the coronavirus through the common cold or flu.
For more information about protecting yourself from coronavirus, visit www.nassaucountyny.gov or www.cdc.gov and click on the coronavirus banners. Also, the Nassau County Department of Health’s hotline is available 9 a.m. through 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 516-227-9697. After regular hours and emergencies, call 516-742-6154. Feel free to contact my office at 516-571-6211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.