[COLUMN] Lessons from COVID

FAKE news

Fake news, downright lies, mis- and disinformation, in various media, especially social media, have conceivably caused hundreds of million COVID-19 infections and deaths around the world. The falsehood that the vaccines are more dangerous (and killed more) than COVID-19, that it contains fetal tissues, changes our DNA, leads to sterility and serious illnesses, has a chip in them, have confused and misguided countless people who ended up devastated by COVID-19 or death. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for malice or stupidity.

Vaccines are safe

Vaccines for COVID-19, for seasonal flu, those mandated as a requirement for children school enrolment, and other available vaccines are all safe and effective in preventing infectious diseases, in spite of misinformed naysayers and fake news on social and other media. Illnesses pose at least 20 times greater risk than the side-effects of the vaccines, especially the COVID-19 vaccines, which are truly a lifesaver. There are about 5 billion people fully vaccinated for COVID-19 worldwide (about 13 billion doses) proving how safe and effective these vaccines are. The vaccines have protected that many people globally.

Lowering viral load

Our body, unless immunocompromised, is able to fight off bacteria and viruses, etc., as long as the bacterial or viral load is small. It is when the number of invading infectious organisms become high enough to overwhelm the body’s self-defense mechanism that we get clinically infected. Washing hands often, using masks, distancing, and avoiding crowds are all aimed at minimizing viral exposure and viral load in our body. Vaccination is a wonderful advance in science that boosts our body’s immune system to a robust degree which defeats the infectious agent and prevents infection. The protective power of the vaccines is akin to that of bullet-proof vests, not 100 percent but proven to be lifesavers nonetheless since they were invented in 1893 by Casimir Zeglen, a Roman Catholic priest in Chicago.

Distancing

Avoiding crowds and social distancing are mitigating measures, like vaccination and wearing masks, proven to lower the dose of infecting agents, like COVID-19 viruses, and thus prevent infections. This is the same reason why outdoors is safer than indoors, where the airflow (wind) disperses the viruses and greatly minimizes the viral dose one inhales, if any at all. Any and all measures to lower the dose of any infecting agents, like washing hands and face often, showering, etc., are effective strategies to avoid infection.

Virus not alive

Contrary to what people think, the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV2) is not a living organism like bacteria. Viruses are protein molecules. So, we cannot “kill” the viruses; we could damage them to render them avirulent, unable to cause infection. That’s the goal of all the measures and strategies we have in combatting COVID-19 at this pandemic.

Masks do help

Similar to the analogy above, wearing masks, have been proven to work, albeit if not 100 percent. Masks reduce the amount (dose) of infecting agents flying in the air being inhaled. Lowering the dose minimizes the chance of getting infected. If 10 individuals (5 wearing a mask and the other 5 not) were sprayed with face powder or flour, which of the two groups would have more powder on their face and nostrils upon mask removal? Masking is also a sign of compassion; it protects the wearer but even more so other people around. Evident even during flu seasons. In spite of what ignorant or dis-informed people (including politicians and civil rights protestors) are claiming, science has proven masks to be safe and effective in minimizing infections. Do you think those who claim masks are useless would allow (or prefer) nurses and surgeons operating on them or their loved ones NOT to wear masks during the operation? It’s plain common sense.

Size of the virus

The SARS-CoV2 virus of COVID-19 is 0.1-0.5 microns. One micron is 1000th of a millimeter. The virus is about is about 600 times to 3,000 times SMALLER than the a grain of table salt (60 microns). A red blood cell is 7-8 microns and white blood cells, 25 microns. A dust particle is about 10 microns. In order to be inhaled into the respiratory tract, it has to be 10 microns or less in size. The largest SARS-CoV2 virus is about ½ (0.5) micron, the reason why it could easily be inhaled by those without a mask.

N95 mask works

N95 mask, especially the NIOSH-approved, is the face cover recommended by the CDC. Masks made of cloth are too porous and thus allow the viruses to go through them. Even hospital masks are not as good as the NIOSH-approved N95. While the N95 mask filters 0.3 microns or larger, and the coronary virus could be as small as 0.1 microns, it seems this mask would allow the virus to go through, the reason uninformed or misinformed people are saying the mask is ineffective in filtering the virus, and therefore useless.

However, studies by civil and environmental engineers at Virginia Tech for one, like Linsey Marr, a professor and researcher at VT, an expert who specializes in airborne transmission of viruses, revealed that “the COVID-19 particle is indeed around 0.1 microns in size, but it is always bonded to something larger…There is never a naked virus floating in the air or released by people.” The virus is usually coated by saliva or mucus or moisture, which makes the particles larger. Also, the Brownian movement of the viral particle that zooms and zigzags around, causes it to get trapped by the electrostatic “absorption” magnetizing the particles, causing them to be snarled by the filter and not able to go through. NIOSH-approved N95 masks filter out 95 percent of the COVID-19 viruses.

UVC lamp

UVC light has been used around the world to sterilize meats, fruits, and vegetable and other items since it was discovered by Nobel Prize winner Ryberg Finsen in 1896. Hospitals use it to sterilize operating rooms, ICUs, infectious disease wards and patient rooms as a routine. I got a couple UVC tote bags and lamps from Amazon and used them during the pandemic sterilizing masks, caps, grocery items, mail, clothing, shoes, cellphones, jewelries, toothbrushes, combs, bedrooms, kitchen, and toilets, always being careful not to expose my eyes and skin to the UVC light. Columbia University has developed the safer Far UVC light, which does not hurt the eyes and skin, for use at home, hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, other public places, to sterilize the environment.

Gold toilet paper

I have been using toilet paper all my life and did not realize how valuable it was until the COVID-19 pandemic led to people hoarding this “gem” of a tissue. I found myself getting my share at Costco. Shelves at other stores were empty. Toilet paper was “gold.”

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, Health Advocate, newspaper columnist, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. Websites: FUN8888.com, Today.SPSAtoday.com, and philipSchua.com; Email: [email protected]

 

Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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