Friday, March 20, 2020
Should "slobs" worry about the issue of transmission of novel coronavirus from surfaces? Maybe, but speculative
Recently there has been more attention to the possibility of transmission of the SARS-Cov2 virus from surfaces and lingering in the air. I had given this New England Journal of Medicine Link on a different blog, but this is the main source.
Whatever the surface or medium, there is normally a half-life, and the density and practical infectivity of virus probably goes down rapidly with time. Nevertheless, there is a lot of chatter that residual contamination in homes and officers might be driving the increase in cases, especially the milder or asymptomatic ones that then transmit the virus to some people who do then become critically ill, and quickly, even exponentially in time, drive the health care crisis. It's also likely that transmission from a surface occurs only if you touch your face or eyes shortly afterward.
This is not necessarily factual. Different mainstream sources vary on what drives transmission, and there is reasonable evidence that a lot of it has happened in large extended families and religious groups this time around (very different from the 1980s). That explains some of the clusters, and the presence of dense clusters may argue somewhat against the significance of asymptomatic carriers.
There is the issue of lifestyle. Some people without families but who have a lot of “stuff” (that applies to me, as I have managed large record and CD collections and books, and even personal manuscripts that are still private) may not be able to be as attentive to meticulous personal and family hygiene as others, and ironically many traditional families, like those from the 1950s with marriages based on complementarity and division of roles, can be more attentive to this, since hygiene can be labor intensive.
Living as a “slob” when alone (and eschewing “germaphobia”) is not necessarily unhealthful. You become immune to your own germs. The big exception is a foreign or alien pathogen such as what came in from China. If you think about it, you can see why this is a national security threat, as it targets individual freedom in a particularly existential way. The concern, however speculative, is that the “slob” get inevitable microexposures to a virus like Sars-COV2 and builds enough immunity to avoid serious or even uncomfortable symptoms. But the “slob” becomes a carrier for a while. People in more conventional living arrangements who are used to being more fastidious (and accept the division of labor sometimes necessary) could be affected more when encountering “the slob” because their exposure to virus is larger at once and there may be vulnerable persons in the household really badly affected.
Again, this sounds like a theory from a sci-fi novel, maybe my “Angel’s Brother”. But this is something that could explode, lead to inspections or intrusions into privacy, however unconstitutional.
I remember my extended period of Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson in 1968, where my personal habits were retooled. It’s true that in that environment you don’t have much to take care of: foot locker, wall locker, bed, rifle. Once I left the Army and entered my adult life at 26, I slipped back into my old self.