COVID-19 self-defense: experts offer easy tips to protect yourself

By Chris Epp, CTV News Calgary

This story was first published online March 5, 2020 on

While the world scrambles to halt the spread of COVID-19, reducing your own risk of contracting it is remarkably simple.

“Any household disinfectant rapidly eradicates it, probably in a minute,” said Dr. John Conly, medical director for the W21C Research and Innovation Centre at the University of Calgary. “Alcohol, bleach, Lysol, (or) any of the products you use around the house will disinfect it almost magically.”

Conly said there was currently no evidence that COVID-19 is airborne,  though it can be spread if an infected person coughs or sneezes.

“It’s about a one-metre distance,” he said, “So that’s a three-foot diameter around the individual…and it can live on a surface for four or five days, to a maximum of nine.”

Vigorous hand washing also helps.

“Follow the principles of good hand hygiene,” Conly said. “There is a technique to make sure you get under the fingernails to the base of your thumbs and web spaces of your fingers.”

In order to increase the number of people cleaning their hands, researchers are experimenting with new disinfectant dispensers in hospitals.

Johanna Blaak developed the latest version, which includes a monitor mounted above it.

When someone depresses the pump, the on-screen tally of people who’ve disinfected their hands’ rises.

The monitor also issues a cheer and displays a simulated germ being squashed.

“People really start talking about it as it is such a visual display,” said Blaak. “In the unit, it’s hard to go around it while a small pump is easy to ignore.”

Blaak hopes to see dispensers such as this distributed around the world.

“We did a large study at the Foothills Medical Centre where we implemented it,” she said. “We found it did increase hand hygiene compliance and the joy of hand hygiene. “

The W21C Research and Innovation Centre, which has hosted global medical innovation summits in the past, is making the technology used for these interactive dispensers free for any institution that wants to use it. Researchers hope it finds its way to hospitals, malls and airports worldwide.


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Banner image courtesy of Associated Press