What you should know about the novel coronavirus
The virologist and hygienist, PD Dr. Dr. Friedrich von Rheinbaben, has the answers
PD Dr. rer. nat. Dr med. habil. Friedrich v. Rheinbaben
Dr. v. Rheinbaben studied microbiology and virology at the universities of Bonn and Giessen. In 1987, he switched to the world of industry and developed the virological department of Henkel KGaA. Later, he worked for ECOLAB and can now look back at over 25 years of activity in the research and development areas of these two large companies. Since 2011, he has been involved with the HygCen Group.
Dr. v. Rheinbaben qualified as a professor at Witten/Herdecke University in the field of hygiene and microbiology/virology. He has teaching posts at Witten/Herdecke University, Germany, and at Danube University Krems, Austria. Dr. v. Rheinbaben is the author and co-author of several specialist books and many papers on hygiene and infection prevention and helps industrial companies in questions of technical and industrial hygiene.
What is the novel coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause various illnesses. Usually they cause mild respiratory and intestinal infections in humans.
In the past, however, some types have been found that cause severe lung infections such as the SARS or MERS virus. Both viruses originate from previously unknown reservoirs and prove to be highly dangerous in individual cases.
The novel coronavirus that appeared for the first time in China at the end of December is no exception in this regard. In the beginning it was given the name 2019-nCoV. The pathogen itself is now called SARS-CoV-2. The respiratory illness it triggers is called COVID-19.
How to proceed against the new pathogen:
The novel coronavirus is an enveloped virus. Loss of the viral envelope or removal of the envelope’s lipid components prevent it from infecting host cells. This fact is exploited to inactivate enveloped viruses in order to stop the virus from spreading.
Many studies have shown that alkaline detergent is very effective against enveloped viruses. This is especially true for detergents with a high emulsifying capacity and for hot detergent solutions in the temperature range of 50° C or higher.
As with all coronaviruses, no particular thermal-resistance is known. It can be assumed that the novel coronavirus is already sensitive to temperatures of 60 to 70° C.
This characteristic means the MEIKO warewashing technology as well as cleaning and disinfection technology are especially effective in inactivating the novel coronavirus, as has been confirmed by the HygCen GmbH hygiene laboratory.
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How dangerous is the novel coronavirus?
In terms of how dangerous it is, the novel coronavirus is obviously comparable to the influenza A viruses.
It can be assumed that a large proportion of sicknesses are asymptomatic or show only mild signs of disease. (For comparison: in the case of the SARS virus, this was assumed to be the case in 80 % of infected people.)
In case of a serious illness, a lethal course of the virus cannot be ruled out, especially if there are other risk factors such as a chronic underlying disease or old age.
Based on the data currently available, a lethality rate of about 2 to 3 % can be expected. This mortality rate is based on the cases that are observed, not on the number of all infected people who show light symptoms, or none at all.
How is the novel coronavirus transmitted?
The new coronavirus is transmitted from person to person.
If the symptoms begin similarly to a cold, according to the current state of affairs it can be assumed that it has been transmitted via contact - usually directly or indirectly via the hands.
If, on the other hand, an infection of the deeper lungs occurs and coughing is observed as a major symptom in this phase, it can be assumed that the pathogen has been spread via particulate materials.
By swallowing the respiratory secretions, the viruses inevitably reach the digestive tract. Provided that they tolerate the conditions prevailing there (pH value of the stomach) and can perhaps still multiply in the intestine, a faecal-oral transmission route is also possible. In any case, the detection of genetic material of the new virus in the patient's faeces indicates this.
In general, all respiratory secretions are considered potentially infectious - even from persons who may still be in the incubation period. This can also contaminate cutlery, dishes and glasses.
Furthermore, contact with faeces is also a transmission path that cannot be excluded.
"In general, the hygiene recommendations that apply to all respiratory tract infections apply," says Dr. Friedrich von Rheinbaben, hygienist and virologist
- Avoid close contact with patients and, if you suspect you have the virus, with susceptible persons (e.g. pregnant women, small children, senior citizens).
- Avoid crowds of people, especially in enclosed spaces, but also in public.
- Cough and sneeze into a tissue and dispose of it immediately.
- Wash your hands with soap and water if necessary, especially after using a tissue and after sneezing and coughing.
- With coronaviruses, hand disinfection is not absolutely necessary. The pathogen is inactivated by soap with good fat dissolving properties. However, washing with water alone is not enough!
- If there is no washing facility available, you should avoid touching your mouth, eyes or nose if possible and you should not eat food with your hands. Hand hygiene is also all the more important when you get home.
- If possible, remain at home to recover from respiratory diseases..
When it comes to infection prevention, the World Health Organization (WHO) has put hand hygiene at the top of its agenda. What to do: