From face masks to eating garlic – your coronavirus questions answered
As coronavirus continues to spread across the UK, here are some answers to a handful of common – and not-so-common – questions about the virus.
Do face masks work?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there is no evidence that face masks protect people who are not sick.
The general advice is if you are healthy, then you do not need to put on a mask to cover your face.
However, people who are caring for someone with a suspected coronavirus infection, or those who have a cough or problems with breathing, are advised to wear one.
The type of face masks being regularly used by the public are surgical masks which are loose fitting, intended for short periods and “do not offer great protection with extended use”, says the Science Media Centre.
When a mask is worn, it must be combined with good hand hygiene to be effective and disposed of properly.
Will washing my hands help and is it safe to shake someone else’s?
In short, yes. WHO says you can kill viruses on your hands by washing them thoroughly and regularly with soap and water – or with an alcohol-based hand rub.
You should be washing your hands even when they are not visibly dirty and especially after coughing or sneezing.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advice is to wash them for the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice, which is about 20 seconds.
Meanwhile, when it comes to shaking hands, GP and medical journalist Dr Rosemary Leonard told BBC Breakfast in February that people should try to avoid it.
While no official guidance has been issued by the NHS or the WHO, it did not stop German chancellor Angela Merkel being rebuffed by her interior minister as she offered her hand on Monday.
How is coronavirus spread? And can I get it from ordering items from China?
It is still not exactly known how coronavirus spreads from person to person, according to the NHS.
However, similar viruses can be passed on through droplets when people cough or sneeze.
The virus is so new that researchers are still trying to develop a vaccine against it.
Meanwhile, when it comes to receiving items from China – where the outbreak started – the WHO says there is no risk of contracting the virus.
It states that coronaviruses do not survive for long outside the human body.
Will spraying my body with alcohol or chlorine help? Can hand dryers kill the virus?
One of the more bizarre – and potentially dangerous – myths surrounding the virus is that alcohol and chlorine can kill it.
But the WHO has warned that such steps will have no impact on viruses that have already entered your body.
In fact, spraying yourself with such substances can damage your mucous membranes such as your eyes and mouth.
As for hand dryers, there is no evidence to suggest they are effective in killing the virus.
However, warm air dryers – or paper towels – should be used to dry your hands after you have washed them thoroughly.
Should I rinse my nose with saline and eat garlic?
While there is some evidence that shows regularly rinsing your nose with saline can help you recover quicker from the common cold, the same cannot be said for the coronavirus.
The WHO said rinsing your nose has not been shown to prevent respiratory problems.
Meanwhile, despite garlic having some antimicrobial properties, there is no evidence from the current outbreak which shows it can protect people from the virus.