Currently, the best way to prevent coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) is by implementing the following simple and basic actions recommended by health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers (with a minimum alcohol concentration of 60 to 80%).
- Avoid direct contact with people who are ill. Maintain a distance of at least 3 feet from people who are suffering from any type of respiratory illness. Avoid shaking hands or kissing on the cheek when greeting people.
- Refrain from touching your eyes, hands and mouth, especially when you are outside of your home. When touching your face, make sure to wash your hands before and after doing so.
- If you have any cold-like symptoms or cough, stay at home and use a face mask to avoid spreading the illness to others.
- Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing with a disposable tissue or the inside of your arm at the elbow.
Scientists and health authorities around the world are researching the most effective ways to control the outbreak, including developing an antiviral and vaccine.
More questions are being answered each day related to the transmission of COVID-19, some regarding its spread via food and surfaces. Although the virus is spread through droplets in the air, there is still concern about its transmission through infected items. Here is what we know so far:
Transmission through food
Though it is possible to catch the virus by eating infected foods, it is not common. COVID-19 and other coronavirus have been found in the feces of some patients.
People handling food should follow basic rules including proper hand washing.
Our best defense: hand washing
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before and after using the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. In addition, you can also use hand alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Disinfect hard surfaces
Surfaces that are touched and constantly exposed should be disinfected. Although it is known that the virus can only live for a few hours, both alcohol and bleach can be used to disinfect surfaces, always following these recommendations:
Clean and disinfect contact surfaces at least once a day either with alcohol, a bleach solution, or disinfecting wipes.
Likewise, clean and disinfect surfaces that are exposed to multiple contacts including doorknobs, handrails, computer keyboards, cell phones, and keys, among other items.
Spray with bleach solution
Use a spray bottle or atomizer containing water with bleach (8 ml of bleach per liter of water). Label the bottle and change the solution daily. Spray surfaces and let them dry without wiping.
You can also use a 75% ethanol spray to disinfect surfaces.
Face masks: Should I use them?
There are no definitive studies showing that masks prevent infection. In addition, masks are designed for other purposes, and some only protect against infectious diseases.
Using a mask as a precautionary measure makes sense if we are in the middle of an outbreak.
This means that they can be useful in stopping people who are already ill from spreading coronavirus and other germs, and for health care workers who are in close contact with people who are sick.
Basic food safety practices
You should follow the same rules for hygiene that apply for avoiding any type of contamination when handling raw food of animal origin, such as red meat, poultry, fish, etc. These include:
- Using separate cutting boards and knives for raw and cooked food. Especially for foods of animal origin.
- Washing your hands before and after handling raw food.
- Don’t consume raw eggs or use them in recipes that call for raw eggs, such as mayonnaise, smoothies with egg, and Cesar salad, among others (yolks should be fully cooked).
- Do not consume raw meat, even ones that are supposedly cooked using lime, such as ceviche.
- Do not consume meat from animals that have been ill.
- Proper processes must be followed for the handling, storage, cooking temperatures and exposure times for animal-based foods.
145°F (63°C) beef and pork
160°F (71 °C) ground beef and pork
165° F (74°C) chicken and turkey
165°F (74°C) leftovers and other dishes
145°F (63°C) raw ham
145°F (63°C) fish
Disinfect cutting boards and kitchen utensils
This is especially important when there are several people handling and preparing food.
For disinfecting cutting boards, use a bleach solution (8 ml of bleach in 1 liter of water) and soak for 2 hours.
For kitchen utensils, use 4 ml of bleach in 1 liter of water and soak for 2 hours.
Take care of yourself and follow these simple prevention measures, especially frequent hand washing, to keep from becoming infected and spreading the coronavirus (COVID-19).