The season for typhoons is upon us and with the heavy rains being felt in different parts of the country, people are speculating that these will help wash away the coronavirus, making it safer to head outside after a downpour.
According to Dr. Aries S. Silva M.D., an Active Consultant for Occupational Medicine at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa, it is best to still stay indoors. “Whatever that theory is, it is not true that typhoons or rains can wash or dilute the coronavirus. Just as there are claims that summer or too much heat kills it. As of the moment, there is no proof yet that any season can directly affect the coronavirus either by exacerbating it or even eliminating it.”
The doctor, also clarifies that there is no proof that the virus can be transmitted through water, by wading in flooded streets or from rainwater that is collected from gutters and recycled as gray water for gardening or cleaning purposes. “Though the virus is something new and studies to better understand it are still ongoing, there are no proof that it can be transmitted in such manner. Remember the virus need a host to survive; they will not just contaminate a person by mere direct contact whether thru flooding or even rainwater collected from the gutter. It will always need the human host.”
Not a seasonal illness
COVID-19 is not season-related, he adds. “The proof I think was already the history that several countries were affected regardless of the season. Moreover, COVID-19 is not a water-borne illness unlike the illnesses that we know during rainy days—some examples of which are Dengue, Influenza, skin diseases, leptospirosis, diarrhea, mental illness brought about by stress and trauma etc. So, in short we will not expect a rise in COVID infection but if indeed there will be more cases, it is not because of the rainy season, but because of the failure of the community to practice social distancing, hand washing and people who did not stay at home.”
Dr. Silva also seeks to dispel the age-old belief that one will automatically get sick when caught in the rain. “This is the issue even older than my grandmother,” he jokes. “For the record, it is not true. The reason why sickness and rain were always associated is because of the sudden change in our body temperature especially to those people who have allergies or asthma and have chronic condition like chronic bronchitis and emphysema.”
He explains that the change in temperature also may contribute in reducing our bodies’ defense against some viruses other than COVID-19. “So the best way to avoid it is protect ourselves by ensuring that we bring umbrellas, raincoats and jackets that will protect us from getting wet and avoiding the sudden change in body temperature.”
Evacuation and testing
With the typhoons also come emergency situations such as flooding and landslides, Dr. Silva advises LGUs to start preparing their facilities with the global pandemic in mind. “This is indeed very challenging in every emergency-prone LGU. Providing an evacuation site is already difficult but it becomes much harder because they need to practice social distancing in their evacuation site. Additional to the old practice of having an evacuation center is the preparedness of the LGUs to immediately isolate people having COVID-19 symptoms and at the same time, do contact tracing and testing.” He advises local and national leaders to not only prepare facilities for Covid-19 but in addition to these, preparing evacuation centers that follow a COVID-19 standard facility.
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Another challenge that the rainy season brings is that there will be an increased number of suspected Covid cases, he says, because Covid 19 presents symptoms that are very much similar with other common respiratory illnesses. This, he says, is where mass testing should come in. “We should be ready to immediately do the testing to all these potential covid 19 carrier and identify if they need primary care only or a hospitalization already. This will help ease the burden in our current hospitals.”
With the higher prevalence of rainy-day related diseases that are bound to crop up this season, Dr. Silva says that it is still important to put COVID-19 as a priority for prevention and treatment. The quarantine rules may have been relaxed but this does not mean that the public should let down its guard. “This virus is so contagious compared to other illnesses that we have ever known, even more contagious than water-borne or common respiratory illnesses during rainy season. So the best way to protect ourselves are still practice proper hygiene, good cough/sneeze etiquette, social distancing, seven to eight hours of sleep, have our vaccine shots, hydrate very well and have always a positive outlook in life.”