Clean surfaces and ventilate rooms to limit covid-19 spread at home, say experts

Simple measures can help reduce the spread and severity of infection among those living with people who have covid-19, say experts in The BMJ today.

Professor Paul Little at the University of Southampton and colleagues say people caring for household members who are unwell should be encouraged to take measures such as handwashing and cleaning, avoiding sharing rooms and surfaces, managing incoming deliveries, and ventilating rooms to limit transmission.

Evidence suggests that “viral load” – the number of viral particles that start the infection off – is likely to be important for covid-19, they explain. In general, the higher the viral load the easier it is for the infection to get hold and the more severe the infection is.

But while government policy is aimed at reducing transmission of covid-19 between family units, less attention has been given to transmission between family members, they write.

One intervention that could be rapidly disseminated in this pandemic and that has been shown to reduce incidence, transmission, and severity of seasonal flu is ‘Germ Defence’ – a website that provides advice on infection control measures and helps users think about when and how to carry out key infection control behaviours.

It is not practical for people at home to use the same methods that are used to protect hospital workers from infection from patients, explain the authors. But there are many other ways to try to reduce exposure to virus in the home, and they’re explained in GermDefence.org.

Originally developed during the H1N1 pandemic, the website is now being adapted for covid-19 and is set to be rolled out nationally and internationally to help limit transmission of covid-19 as well as the other viruses that are still causing the majority of respiratory illnesses in the current pandemic, they say.

Use of such behavioural interventions “could support public health advice to improve infection control in families,” they conclude.

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