Now, please wash your hands

The Flu Virus

Politicians throughout this outbreak, and previous outbreaks, have said that the advice is to make sure you wash your hands. Have you ever wondered why?

Okay, let’s have a go. Biology is not my usual subject area, so I am paraphrasing from somebody I know, who does have some idea how biology works.

You heard of lipids, right? Think back to your last cholesterol test – LDL, HDL? Those are low-density and high-density lipids that are being measured. If you’re still in the dark, no problem, they are defined here (Wikipedia), or an easier-to-read explanation here on some medicine-explained site.

Keep that in your mind. The structure of any virus – regular flu, COVID-19, any of them – is that you have the key part of the virus (the RNA – like DNA, but for viruses), but that is surrounded by this envelope of lipids. These are what protect the virus, they form a barrier around it. This is why it can sit on a surface and remain active for hours or even days.

Take away those lipids, and the virus is screwed. No protection, so it can’t survive on its own.

Lipids happen to be soluble in soap. Common or garden soap, that we have all been using forever. So, you get soap on your hands, it dissolves the lipids protecting the virus, the virus dies. Simple as, but who knew?

My mate compared the situation to when we would paint something. To rinse the brush in water was no good, but rinsing it in turpentine got the brush clean. It’s the exact same process going on – paint is soluble in turps.

Incidentally, anti-bacterial? Forget it, this is a virus, not a bacteria. You’re wasting your money if you pay extra.

I guess there’s a moral here. If somebody tells you to do something, ask ’em why. Ask questions. I haven’t heard any of this through the media, just through my network of friends – I’m fortunate enough to know some intelligent people.


Postscript

This is not really related to the post, but it is related to the virus. Friday evening, I heard my first “success story” personally.

Okay, okay, I know how bad things can be, but I went on about this last week. The media are concentrating on the worst cases because they are more newsworthy.

This guy is a 28yo male. I have no idea whether he has other health issues, but I assume not, at age 28. He is the son of a friend’s workmate, so the link is not very strong, but it is at least a case I have known personally. He fell ill Tuesday with the virus. He stayed home, felt rough for a few days. On Friday (yesterday), he was starting to feel better. He described it as feeling just like flu. I guess he’s intending keeping his head down until next Tuesday at least – the advice here is seven days.

Okay, I know many of us do have other health issues, but I just wanted to make you aware of a “best case” scenario, because the media isn’t doing so. I know too that we are being warned not to compare this thing to flu so as not to trivialise it, but those were the words of somebody directly affected.

Author: Stroke Survivor UK

Designed/developed IT systems for banks, but had a stroke in 2016, aged 48. Returned to developing from home, plus do some voluntary work. Married, with a grown-up, left-home daughter.

22 thoughts on “Now, please wash your hands”

    1. Whilst there are undoubted similarities between the two, the mortality rate for COVID-19 runs at around 3%, while the mortality rate for seasonal flu is around 0.1%. So the possible consequences are that much greater, That may or may not be because there is a vaccine for seasonal flu, but again we need to bear in mind that many parts of the population do not necessarily receive that vaccine anyway, so it feels like comparing apples and oranges. I think we have to apply limits in our comparison of the two.

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        1. I think the Washington Post said same as you, so there are others out there who think that. I wonder what the mortality rate was for flu before there was a vaccine? That see,s to me to be a like-for-like comparison. I’m sure there was never a vaccine when I was a child, so we shouldn’t neede to go back too far.

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  1. As someone who is at risk for many reasons, I am grateful to hunker down and stay home with clean hands. The first death in LA county was one town away from me. The person had returned from Korea sick and then visited family in the next town. The family is under lockdown as as the first responders that came to their house to provide help. It is real and staying home is my line in the sand. There are more survival stories coming out, and that is a great counter balance.

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    1. I’ll tell you what, though. I am hearing all over the media about the horrors of isolation. No Sunday soccer matches etc. And for me, nothing has really changed! 🙂 Makes me realise just how isolated I am in any case.

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  2. What a good post! Now I see why I don’t like to use the sanitizers but I prefer regular soap. Finally! Very good to hear a lighter story because many people do recover and the symptoms may vary. I hope this also can help scientists to develop a vaccine and some treatment.

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    1. Funnily enough, there was a (beautician?) on tv only this morning saying she was starting to see cases of dried-out hands because people are over-washing. so we should not forget to use moisturizer too.
      And at the same time, I’m kinda glad that I don’t live in her world!

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      1. I confirm the dry hands as a result of using more soap than usually. Special times ask for special measurements.
        The weather is really nice over here, I hope that can curbe the uprising of the virus too.

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              1. Thank you for asking! Well, we’ve made some progress. A lot of the boxes are packed and moved. In the old home I just need to pack the kitchen. Which is not easy because of possible quarantine. I need to have some extra food. That is a but unclear with the special circumstances.
                We finished painting the living and dining room, the kitchen and the bedroom. Then we took a break. We’ve set a date and now we’re contacting moving companies to move the bigger pieces. So I think we’re making progress but overall I’m not too fast. I guess I need to take time too recover as well. But I do see very much progress in what I wrote above and the ‘one box at the time’ that was maybe 2.5 months ago 😃 What do you think?

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  3. Still not sure what to think P – but at least hubby got out of Spain before today’s State of emergency, shutting the country down! His daughter’s told him not to visit as he might pass the virus onto her children and she’s told me he ought to go into a hotel or something for a week, so as not to infect me! He hasn’t even got any symptoms – but imagine – him passing it onto a whole hotel?

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    1. I just caught up on a BBC4 thing todaywhere they were talking about the impact in different countries. Spain was mentioned… Did they close the border yet? I kinda wonder how successful one country will be in mainland Europe, where there are (open) borders all over the place.

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      1. Oh, overtaken by news. We have some friends who had been booked to go out to Tenerife. They did not want to go but did not want to lose all that money. So thankfully for them, the Spanish Govt have stepped in and at least now their insurance will pay out.

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      2. No, they shut Spain down on Friday then France on Saturday. We’re being sent pics from our friends in Alicante and the streets are desolate. The Guardia are stopping peope in cars, asking where they’re going. You can only go out for essentials. All the beaches and bars are bare and I don’t know how the likes of our holiday area and nearby Benidorm are going to cope!

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