Advice from a Microbiologist on Getting Back Out There

. May 12, 2020.

Enjoying public spaces safely as Ohio reopens 

The announcement that patio dining will resume on the 15th is some much needed good news. Finally a warm meal that someone else is cooking, serving, and clearing away! It has the promise of a great family outing and a late Mother’s Day treat.

Starting to find our way back to public shared space is both thrilling and terrifying. It will be a joy to see non-family members of the population. Still, we don’t want to find ourselves back where we started with major threats to health still very much a reality.

A reality check from grandmother of two and microbiologist Ebtesam Samuel helps put things in perspective while incorporating some basic practices to keep the entire family safe in public spaces. Samuel explains the science behind viruses and provides some ground rules for getting back out there with children in tow. Samuel describes a virus as, “A structure carrying code for its own replication. It finds its way into a host, invades cells, and proceeds to wreak havoc on the host’s body.”

Samuel advises that our best hope against such attacks is setting up defenses and offenses.  Defenses to prevent infection and offenses to actively eliminate the virus’s ability to “succeed” in it’s attempted take over. The offensive strategies are intended to break down the structure and internal code of the virus to weaken its ability to replicate. 

Defensive Strategies:

1) A healthy immune system. Eat well, exercise, and stay hydrated and well rested.

2) Practice impeccable hygiene, before and after any activity or interaction. Wash your hands like you are prepping for surgery. Get your kids to make those bubbles for 2 “Happy Birthdays.” 

3) Minimize your contact with surfaces, especially in spaces where bodily fluid is likely to have escaped. 

4) Maintain social distance whenever possible. The less physical contact you engage in, the less likely you are to be directly exposed to contagens. 

5) Stop touching your face. Seriously, there is no reason your hands need to be near your face. While you’re at it, stop touching your mask. If you keep touching it you’re defeating its purpose entirely.

Offensive Strategies:

1) UV light. Putting things out in the sun or under a UV lamp will break down the virus’ structure and coding.

2) Chlorine. Bleach is very effective in breaking apart the structural integrity of the virus. Washing or cleaning with a chlorine solution will help control the spread.

3) Alcohol reduces the virus’ potency. Clean surfaces with 70% alcohol, such as found in rubbing alcohol and many hand sanitizers. Note: let the solution sit on the surface.

Samuel warns that some of the offensive measures create a false sense of security, “Just because you wiped a surface down with sanitizer does not mean it is entirely free of the virus.

The defensive strategies are a better measure in reducing risk of infection.” Teach your children about preventative hygiene and help them understand why to take such measures, so that when you are not with them, they are not a health hazard to themselves or others. Have them practice these strategies until they become habit so they take precautions without your prompting. Building good habits now while we are home can help us be prepared for getting back out there.


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