It is a most treacherous time --- a time when a person does not keep faith in the hands that feed, let alone others within family or beyond. Studies reveal that people instinctively touch their mouth, eyes and nostrils -facial areas or otherwise called target membranes 16 times an hour on an average. In another study, the rate for students was found to be 23 times an hour. All these experiments were done to see the rate of pathogen transmission from environmental surfaces to the target membranes. The interval between two touches was also taken into consideration in order to see the rate of dying off pathogens.
The frequency of touching the susceptible facial areas makes it clear that coronavirus which remains stable from four hours to 72 hours on different environmental surfaces can transmit when hands make contact first with such surfaces and then with the target facial areas. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus can remain stable on copper surface for four hours, on cardboard for 24 hours and on plastic and steel for up to 72 hours. In this connection, it should be noted that the amount of viral particles decreases rapidly on each of these surfaces. The risk of getting infected from touching may as well decrease, suggest Julia Marcus, infectious disease epidemiologist and professor in the Department of Population Medicine at the Harvard Medical School.
A far greater threat comes from direct exposure to suspended droplets of an infected person. Suppose such a person has sneezed or coughed in the open and a passer-by either on foot or on a cycle or a motorbike passes through the cloud of droplets, there is no avoiding the contamination. The droplets remain suspended in the air for sometime and some of those may be carried by air or wind. Anyone coming in direct contact to those droplets is likely to get contaminated by the virus.
This is why time is treacherous and testing. When one's own hands are suspect, others are even more suspect because no one can be sure about the next person's habits and practices of personal hygiene. This is exactly why epidemiologists and immunologists have come up with the most rigorous hygienic recipe of total confinement of citizens in cities and towns -most crowded places -the world over.
A kind of phobia now haunts most people. Many even are suspicious of touching door knobs, lift buttons, ATM booths, faucets of basins, commode flush and so on. Some wash hands immediately after touching any of these and environmental surfaces lest it has been infected by one testing corona positive. They cannot be blamed for reacting so if they have to share such facilities or things.
However, mistrust and suspicion have been at their most pernicious when rumours prompt people to behave inhumanly and unjustly. That a family of a health department driver with complaint of common flu had to flee a health complex under pressure from the public shows how impassioned and irrational people at times may become. Mutual mistrust and suspicion can be dangerous at a time when the need is to lift each other's spirit by every means possible. Physical distancing from each other does not mean mental distancing as well. If each individual also becomes a desolate island within, the mental burden will prove too heavy to bear. Many will perish out of fear and frustration. One person was reported to commit suicide and two others died on suspicion or out of fear of getting infected with coronavirus. Tests revealed the latter two were not infected.
This is an over populous land and the impassioned people's reaction to this challenging time can be bewildering too. Or, how can an argument lead to a deadly feud in which one person was killed and several were left injured! At a time when people ought to be sober and feel blessed to be alive, a lot of them feel no qualm about committing crimes and harbouring poisonous hatred in their souls.
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