By Tahnee Jash of the ABC

After two years of dodging Covid-19, Ashley Brown found herself struggling recently with some of the worst cold-like symptoms she'd ever experienced.

Husband housekeeping and cleaning concept, Happy young man in blue rubber gloves wiping dust using a spray and a duster while cleaning on floor at home.

Research shows Covid-19 doesn't survive long on surfaces.
Photo: 123rf

Then, she tested positive to Covid.

"The first few days were awful. I had every symptom you could imagine. I couldn't eat or sleep, was severely fatigued and had shortness of breath," she says.

By day five she felt a slight shift in her energy levels. She missed her family and friends while she was isolating in her apartment alone and it made her determined to get better and back to normal.

"I opened all the windows and disinfected everything: My towels, pillows, blankets as well as the cushions in my lounge room. It was like a mini spring clean," she says.

"I mopped the floor and wiped down all the benches, door handles and light switches in my house.

"Because my symptoms were still there by the second week, I cleaned my house again."

Ashley hopes her mum can come over to visit soon, and so she's taken extra precautions to clean her house given that her mum is immunocompromised.

People with compromised immunity have an increased risk of severe symptoms and treatments may be delayed if they are forced to quarantine.

"My mum has chronic diabetes and while we've had some medical scares in the past, she's now at a good point where she's learned how to manage it," she says.

"I only have one mum and I wouldn't forgive myself if she got really sick."

Cleaning your house after having Covid

Research shows Covid-19 doesn't survive long on surfaces.

Depending on where it's found, the virus only lasts a couple of hours and in some instances a few days. To survive, it needs a "host" and the longer it's been on that surface, the less infectious it is.

Despite this, there's still some social anxiety around catching Covid from surfaces.

When Covid first broke out, there was plenty of advice about how to keep yourself safe. At the time, it included washing your hands, high-touch surfaces and wiping any items brought into your home.

It's partly why cleaning product purchases rose by 50 per cent in 2020. Yet the Doherty Institute reported that 80 per cent of survey respondents did not feel they knew how to thoroughly clean their home after having Covid.

Dr Paul Griffin, an infectious diseases specialist and microbiologist with the University of Queensland, says "deep cleans" (to remove dirt and bacteria from surfaces not cleaned regularly) aren't as necessary anymore.

"We learned more about this virus every day from when it was first discovered," Dr Griffin says.

"While there's talk about deep cleans, and we saw pictures of people with fogging machines we [now know] that surface transmission has been shown to be a lot less important."

Dr Griffin says simply wiping down surfaces with your household disinfectants will do a great job.

"What we typically recommend is just a simple wipe over of high touch surfaces like countertops and door handles [with disinfectant products]."

"If we're trying to decontaminate our home environment, in-wash disinfectants [for clothes etc.] are useful as is simply hanging things on the line to let the sun get on them. But [it's] not a common way of [Covid] transmission."

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Ventilation is key

The most common way to catch the coronavirus is through tiny droplets in the air passed through close contact.

Dr Griffin recommends sitting outside if you have people visit soon after your isolation period, maintaining social distancing and avoiding "high risk environments, like prolonged indoor close contact".

"Opening windows helps dilute the amount of virus that's around or even purchasing an air purifier with HEPA filtration will basically clean the air inside your home," Dr Griffin says.

If you're using your air conditioner or ducted system while infectious, opening the windows while it's on can be helpful too.

"It can potentially [transmit through that system], although that's not the most common method of transmission. Have the air moving [around your home] and look at opening the window, and have fans on or consider getting an air purifier so it can improve ventilation," he says.

With flu season just around the corner, Dr Griffin recommends having an air purifier not only to help with Covid but with influenza too.

How long should you wait to visit someone after having Covid?

Current New Zealand health advice is you need to isolate at least seven days after you have received a positive Covid-19 result.

"[The] bulk of the symptoms should resolve within that time but there are a lot of symptoms that can persist, that we don't tend to associate with being infectious [like] fatigue and a dry cough," Dr Griffin says.

Ashley hasn't seen her mum for over three weeks and while she's no longer infectious, it's the lingering symptoms she's worried about.

"I've tested negative now but wouldn't feel comfortable inviting mum over until my symptoms are gone. Knowing I've thoroughly cleaned the house and my car after having Covid makes me feel a lot better," she says.

If you're visiting someone in an apartment block or shared housing, there's a higher risk of spaces like lifts and hallways could be be contaminated, so it's good to take extra precautions.

"Doing your hand hygiene really well will protect those people from potentially being infected, if there are contaminated surfaces," Dr Griffin says.

"They could also consider wearing a mask so if the air is contaminated, they're going to reduce their chance of breathing it in."


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