Dog walking may put you at higher risk for COVID-19, mouthwash may help protect you from it

Who had walking the dog as a coronavirus spreading activity on their bingo card? A new study published by the University of Granada and the Andalusian School of Public Health in Spain points to several highlights scientists have zeroed in on. Some of these conclusions don’t sound new while others may be.

A survey was taken of 2,086 people by researchers from the University of Granada. The questions were on their daily habits to evaluate the risks of spreading the virus. That isn’t a huge amount of participants but the results seem to line up with warnings we have received from the medical community. The participants included more females than males and a large amount of them was between the ages of 40 – 54 years of age.

The survey was completed by 2086 people, 66% of them were women. The age of more than 40% of the participants ranges between 40 and 54 years. A total of 44% of the respondents have completed university studies. Regarding the home conditions, 72% live in a single-family home, and 26.6% live with 3 relatives in the home. 35% live with children at home and 21% with adolescents, only 4.3% had a housemaid working at their house during confinement, and 4.7% of respondents reported living with a COVID-19 infected household member

The highlights are summarized in this way:
1.Living with a COVID-19 patient increased the risk of contagion by 60 times.
2. Walking the dog increases the risk of contagion of COVID-19 by 78%.
3. The most effective hygiene measure was disinfecting products purchased.
4. Working on site at the workplace increased the risk of contagion by 76%.
5. Obtaining basic products using home delivery service raised the risk of contagion.

It is easy to understand that we increase our risk of becoming infected with the virus if someone in our household has it. We’ve been told over and over again to be vigilant about personal hygiene, frequent hand washing, and covering our mouths and noses during coughs or sneezes. When the lockdowns began, those who could began to work from home instead of in their places of employment. We were even told to beware of the spread of germs from items being delivered to our homes. But, the survey points to the likelihood of becoming infected by the coronavirus increase by 78% from walking your canine companion. That finding just sounds odd, yet here we are.

More research is needed but the initial report says that “these results point to living with dogs as a strong risk factor for COVID-19 infection.” One researcher, by the way, pointed out that shutting down playgrounds doesn’t make sense when dog parks remain open.

There is no conclusive research that proves dog-to-human transmission is possible if a dog becomes infected, however, researchers suggest pooches could spread the virus by touching contaminated surfaces in public and then walking the germs throughout their owner’s home.

Professor Cristina Sanchez Gonzalez, one of the study’s authors, said dog owners should take extra care to practice good hygiene, the Sun reported.

She added that decisions to close areas such as playgrounds “didn’t make sense” when areas such as dog parks were able to remain open.

“In the midst of a pandemic and in the absence of an effective treatment or vaccine, preventive hygiene measures are the only salvation, and these measures should also be applied to dogs, which, according to our study, appear to directly or indirectly increase the risk of contracting the virus,” she said.

So, dogs may bring the virus into homes but there is no conclusion that dogs get the virus from public surfaces and transmit the virus to their humans. Fear not, cat owners, the same does not seem to be true of cats. Since the group surveyed was not a large one, it is not possible to say with certainty that dogs spread the virus.

“The results of our research warn of increased contagion among dog-owners,” said Professor Cristina Sánchez González, one of the researchers. However, given the small pool and the fact that correlation is not causation, these results should be taken as a universal rule. These are only observational statistics. According to Professor González there isn’t enough information to say whether dogs spread the virus, as people do, or simply acted as a surface from which people could pick-up the virus. For all one knows, even their faeces could be transferring the virus.

The professor only suggested having increased safety measures for dog-walking and proper hygiene and suggested not to panic.

Maybe we should all use some mouthwash before walking the dog. A different study began to create a buzz yesterday as scientists at Cardiff University in Wales may have discovered that mouthwash kills the coronavirus germs in our mouths. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal, so take it with a grain of salt. What is certain is that mouthwash does not treat the virus or act as a cure. It looks like mouthwash can be included as a part of a person’s regular personal hygiene routine to avoid the virus if the study results hold. A clinical trial at the University Hospital of Wales will examine how effective mouthwash is in reducing the amount of coronavirus found in the saliva of Covid-19 patients.

Commonly-used mouthwashes are able to kill the coronavirus within 30 seconds of exposure in laboratory conditions, a new study from scientists in the U.K. has found.

The study from Cardiff University, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal, suggests that some widely-available mouthwashes could help to kill the virus in saliva. However, this does not mean they would be able to treat the virus within the body, or act as a cure.

Some scientists were quick to disregard the study out of Wales, though.

“Yes. There is some data out there — I am not saying it’s great data — that fill-in-the-blank substance inactivates or inhibits replication of coronavirus,” Dr. Graham Snyder, associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told CNN.

Alcohol, chlorhexidine, hydrogen peroxide and a range of other compounds can all kill viruses on contact or shortly after.

But none of the studies recently released on preprint servers shows they can reduce the risk of either catching or transmitting the virus, Snyder points out.

Nay-sayers point to the fact it is impossible to sterilize a mouth. Mouthwash doesn’t affect lung airways or vocal cords. The airborne virus is spread through exhaling, coughing, and sneezing. The virus infects people through contact or through inhalation. Rinsing with mouthwash doesn’t prevent the virus from being inhaled.

It’s such a tenuous theory that even Johnson & Johnson, makers of Listerine mouthwash, have explicitly warned consumers against the idea.

“Listerine mouthwash has not been tested against any strains of coronavirus,” the company said on its website.

“Only some Listerine mouthwash formulations contain alcohol, and if present is only around 20% alcohol. Listerine mouthwash is not intended to be used, nor would it be beneficial as a hand sanitizer or surface disinfectant.”

Take both of these studies as you will. The coronavirus continues to show that much is still not known about it. In the meantime, we can continue to protect ourselves as best as we can and wait for the vaccines to become available.

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