Over 60 per cent of the COVID cases reported in the world is believed to have spread through facial structures of either the eyes or nose- that is protected by the mucous membrane. Habits such as rubbing eyes or poking the nose are highlighted as innocent behaviour that assists in the transmission of the disease.
Health experts are urging Ugandans to keep fingers
away from their faces as this is the most common way through which the highly
contagious COVID 19 is transmitted.
According to experts from the health
ministry, World Health Organization-WHO and the US Center for Disease Control
and Prevention-CDC, COVID-19 is spread when droplets from an infected person get into contact with
the mucous membranes of another person.
Over 60 per cent of the COVID cases reported in the
world is believed to have spread through facial structures of either the eyes
or nose- that is protected by the mucous membrane. Habits such as rubbing eyes
or poking the nose are highlighted as innocent behaviour that assists in the
transmission of the disease.
The mucous membrane is a layer that forms the outer
boundary or lining of body space or cavity and canals that lead to the outside
of the body. Parts of the body that are linked with the mucous membrane include;
the mouth, nose, eyelids, trachea, lungs, stomach and intestines. Other parts
include the ureters, urethra and urinary bladder.
Dr Allan Muruta, the commissioner Epidemiology
Surveillance and Public Emergencies explains that available information
indicates that the deadly coronavirus enters the body via the mucous membrane.
“From what we know from China, the virus which
causes the disease flourishes in the mucous membrane and the face is the easiest
part of the body for this virus to be introduced to a human being,” Dr Muruta
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When the virus enters the body through the face, it
attaches itself to receptors of the cells that form the mucous membranes and
are taken up into the cells where they thrive. The virus uses the host cells to
As the virus multiplies, the mucous membrane becomes
inflamed which makes the body produces excess water in response to try and stop
the swelling. This, in the end, leads to congestion of the lungs with the excess
water produced leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome. It can also stop
oxygenation of blood which leads to damage to organs like the heart that need
According to doctors, the virus once attached to an
object can last up to 9 hours. Dr Misaki Wanyengera, a virologist and immunologist
who has carried out extensive research on viral disease such as Ebola says this
is what makes COVID 19 very dangerous compared to other viral diseases.
“Unlike other viral diseases like HIV and even Ebola
that we are well conversant with, this virus lasts longer outside the body
which makes it easy to spread. In 9 hours someone gets in contact with so many
people,” he said.
Research shows that the most susceptible
age groups to the disease are people above 59 years with existing respiratory
diseases and infants. It is estimated that eight out of every 10 infected people
mistake the disease for a common cold in its initial stages.
Symptoms of the disease include; flu,
cough, fever and severe chest pain. In severe cases, infected persons will have
difficulty breathing. The disease can lead to pneumonia, organ failure and in
severe situations death. It is estimated that in all cases, 80 per cent of infections
are mild and not show any symptoms, 15 per cent are severe infections requiring oxygen
and 5 per cent are critical infections, requiring ventilation.
The diseases are reported to have a mortality rate of
1.3 to 2 per cent. As of today, reports from WHO show that over 100,000 people
in 100 countries have been infected with the disease with over 3,500 deaths.
The number of new infections seems to be steadily on the rise.
The increase in infections globally are being
attributed mainly to community infections where affected persons in some cases
cannot identify where they might have been infected. According to WHO,
this is what has led to a spike in numbers in countries like China, Italy, Spain
Most of what the world knows about COVID in from
research that has been carried out in China following the outbreak in December
2019. Dr Wayengera, however, says there are many answered questions and more need to be carried out to shed light on some unknowns about the disease.
According to Dr Wayengera, one of the areas that need more research is the possibility of reinfection. This comes following global
reports that people reported to be cured seem to be able to get the disease
after receiving treatment.
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Other unknowns that will hopefully be answered by
more research is the susceptibility of pregnant women being infected or if the
disease can be spread via sexual intercourse as in the case of HIV and Ebola.
However, Dr Wayengera says that such research might have to wait because
now, the world is focused on treating the sick and not carrying out research.
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Despite presenting with flu-like symptoms, doctors
says that COVID is not airborne as flu is. According to WHO, one person
infected with COVID 19 can spread it to 2.5 people on average.
To prevent the spread of the disease, governments around
the world have put in place guidelines to help citizens keep safe. In Uganda,
the health ministry has urged people to avoid close contact with people who
have flu or cough, carrying out hand washing on a regular basis with soap and
water, avoiding large gatherings and not travelling to countries that are hit
by the disease.
However, while people are being encouraged not to
touch their faces, this might be next to impossible for some. A 2015 study
carried by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control-APIC found
that a human being touches their face 23 times in an hour.
Amy L Boore, the branch chief of Health Systems
Strengthening at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Uganda says
that it is important for people to change their habits as far as touching their
faces is concerned. She says even is people carry out hand washing but keep on touching
their faces, they can still be infected by the disease.