Do I REALLY have to wash my shopping when it’s delivered? Experts answer all your pandemic questions in our coronavirus clinic
- Government advises risk of Covid-19 cross-contamination to food is very low
- No harm in wiping packaging with soapy water or leaving parcels for three days
- A mask should trap droplets in the air, or those breathed out by the wearer
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Q. Do I need to wash all the shopping I have delivered?
A.‘The Government advises that the risk of coronavirus cross-contamination to food and packaging is very low,’ says Dr Andrew Preston, a reader in microbial pathogenesis at the University of Bath.
‘In addition, manufacturers are required to have systems in place to keep products clean.
‘However, there’s no harm in giving packaging a wipe down with soapy water or leaving parcels for three days before opening if you are concerned. The best approach is always to wash your hands with soap after handling any packaging, and to wash fresh food prior to eating.
‘Note it is unlikely that you can catch the virus from eating food, and cooking will destroy it.’
As the nation continues to control the spread of the coronavirus, experts have answered your questions in regards to the pandemic. (Stock image)
Q. Miraculously my husband, 84, is home after a week in intensive care with Covid-19. He’s been told he no longer needs to self-isolate. What are the risks for me at 71?
A. ‘This is fantastic news,’ says Dr Preston. ‘When symptoms finally go away, this normally means the infection has cleared — although exactly how long an individual carries the virus varies from one person to another.
‘In the majority of people, it will have cleared within four weeks of symptoms appearing.
‘As you are vulnerable to Covid-19 because of your age, the hospital should have tested your husband before sending him home to ensure he no longer has the virus, or else he could pass it on. Check his discharge notes to make sure this happened.
‘If this test was done, you don’t need to take any special measures, but you should both follow the social distancing rules when outside.’
‘Dr Jane Greatorex, a virologist at the University of Cambridge, adds: ‘As the virus is present in hospitals, treat the clothes he was wearing as contaminated and wash thoroughly.
‘While we hope your husband is now immune, he can still pick up and spread the virus, so he must continue to follow social distancing rules.’
Q. What can I use as a filter in homemade masks? Would four layers of garden fleece work?
A. ‘Four layers of garden fleece [an unwoven, plastic fabric used to cover plants] could result in a bulky mask that is hot and uncomfortable to wear,’ says Dr Preston.
‘It may also restrict airflow, which could cause or worsen breathing problems.
One reader asked if they could use four layers of garden fleece to filter their homemade mask. (Stock image)
‘A mask should trap droplets in the air, or those breathed out by the wearer. Ensuring it fits snugly over the mouth and nose is key. Even a scarf or a couple of layers of fabric with a loose weave, such as cotton, can provide a barrier.
‘After wearing a mask outside, consider it contaminated. Wash it, then your hands, immediately.’
Q. Could a bad chest infection in autumn have been Covid-19?
A. ‘There is no evidence to suggest the coronavirus currently circulating in the UK was around before December 2019,’ says Dr Greatorex. ‘Tracing clearly suggests the origin was Wuhan, in China, at the end of last year.’
Q. Can a barrier cream such as Vaseline help keep coronavirus particles from entering the nose?
A. ‘Barrier creams can help to moisturise the nose to prevent or soothe dry, cracked skin,’ says Professor Gino Martini, chief scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
‘However, as virus particles are so small — around 0.2 microns [less than a thousandth of a millimetre] — it is unlikely that a cream such as Vaseline would be able to create any protective barrier. The best form of defence is to wash your hands regularly, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.’
Q. Why do some people who are young and healthy die of Covid-19, while others survive?
A. ‘As with many infections, some people are more severely affected by Covid-19 than others,’ says Dr Preston.
‘This may be down to them having an underlying health problem, or it could be that some are infected with a larger amount of the pathogen than others, enabling the infection to build more quickly and overcome the initial immune response.
I have a flight to Canada booked for August. If I can go, will I have to quarantine for two weeks on arrival and two weeks return to the UK?
‘It’s impossible to say what measures, if any, will be necessary in August,’ says Dr Andrew Preston, a reader in microbial pathogenesis at the University of Bath.
‘However, the UK Government has announced that passengers arriving at British airports will have to quarantine for 14 days to prevent the spread of the virus. Check with your airline or the Government website for updates nearer the time.’
‘It’s also likely there are other subtle differences between people that we don’t yet know about, from genetic factors to what other viruses might be present in their airway when they become infected.’
Q. I am 78 and was vaccinated against tuberculosis (with the BCG vaccine) when I was young. Will this give me any protection against Covid-19?
A. ‘It is known that the BCG vaccine induces some general immunity,’ says Dr Preston. ‘It revs up the immune system to fight invaders in general, not only TB.
‘Some countries with an active BCG programme do have lower Covid-19 death rates than those which do not currently use the vaccine. However, there is not yet enough evidence that it provides protection against the coronavirus for it to be used.
‘Three trials are planned or under way to see if there is any benefit. It may be that it helps boost our defences but will not provide absolute protection, which is the appeal of a Covid-19 vaccine.
‘Indeed, older people who are more likely to have had the BCG jab in the UK are also at greater risk of severe coronavirus infection. So far there is no evidence that those who were vaccinated against TB have any protection against Covid-19.’
Government advises that the risk of coronavirus cross-contamination to food and packaging is very low however, there is no harm in giving packaging a wipe down with soapy water. (Stock image)
Q. Should I stop my elderly mother’s carers coming to the house if they are not wearing personal protective equipment?
A.‘Rising numbers of Covid-19 infections in care homes suggest that carers need to wear PPE when making home visits,’ says Dr Preston. ‘Even if a carer is not showing symptoms of the virus, they may be carrying it and could transmit it to others.
‘It’s reasonable to request that they wear PPE when they visit — even a homemade mask would help.
‘In theory, you could stop them coming into the house if they don’t wear PPE, but if they supply medication or are the only source of meals and personal care, barring them is likely to create a higher risk of harm to your mother.’
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