Whether it’s the flu or monkeypox, here’s how to avoid picking up a virus
Should you move away if someone at the next table is sneezing? And how long does a virus survive on surface tops? CNA Lifestyle asks an expert.
It seems like someone else is on sick leave in the office every day – and now you’re reading about the first case of monkeypox being detected in Singapore.
We don’t blame you for thinking like a hypochondriac, popping vitamin pills and kale-ing your smoothies at the first sign of the sniffles.
Just in case, right?
But before you do anything more drastic, such as getting vaccines you might not need, here’s help figuring out what your best bet is when it comes to avoiding picking up a virus.
DOES BEING VACCINATED AGAINST CHICKENPOX HELP WITH MONKEYPOX?
Not a chance. The two viruses are as different as, well, chickens and monkeys.
The only similarity they share is the word “pox”, said Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.
“Having had chickenpox vaccine does not give you immunity,” he said.
“But having had smallpox vaccine confers partial protection as smallpox and monkeypox come from the same family.”
As of now, there is no vaccination or treatment for monkeypox.
HOW HARDY ARE VIRUSES IN GENERAL?
It depends on which ones you’re talking about. The flu virus, for example, sticks around for about 24 hours on hard surfaces, 15 minutes on tissue, and 5 minutes on your hand, according to the UK’s NHS website.
It is also constantly evolving. This is why you need to get yearly flu jabs as the vaccine that targets last year’s flu strains may not work on this year’s.
As for monkeypox, it still is not known how long the virus can survive in the open. What we do know is that it is an enveloped virus, meaning it “has membranes covering it”, said Dr Leong.
But despite its seemingly cocooned make-up, the membranes break down when there is a lack of moisture, causing the virus to die. “In other words, it is quite easy to kill,” said Dr Leong.
Moisture is essential to the monkeypox virus’ survival and that’s why, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, it is thought to be spread “primarily through large respiratory droplets” during prolonged face-to-face contact as these “droplets generally cannot travel more than a few feet”.
SHOULD WE MOVE AWAY IF THE PERSON AT THE NEXT TABLE SNEEZES?
You’re probably fine unless you’re sitting elbow to elbow and could feel the person’s spray (in which case, it might be too late for any evasive action).
Respiratory droplets aside, both the flu and monkeypox can also be spread via direct touch, such as shaking the infected person’s hand.
Dr Leong said the touch factor even includes the sharing of furniture such as tables and chairs.
Keep your hands clean. And as for those surfaces, your hand sanitiser can perform double duty.
“If you’re on the go and don’t have antiseptic wipes with you, you can pour some hand sanitiser on tissue and use that to wipe [surfaces],” said Dr Leong.
“It is a reasonable substitute if you use sufficient hand sanitiser.”