5 behavioral changes that can limit the spread of COVID-19

Behaviour and herd immunity

It is simply important that a very high proportion of the population is performing precautionary behaviours consistently. Protection is on the level of the herd, more so than on the level of the individual.

Herd immunity refers to the ability of a population of animals to resist infection by a pathogen — such as a virus — because a sufficiently large number of individuals within the population have humoural immunity on an individual level. Humoural immunity is the ability of the immune system to form antibodies against a specific infectious agent.


With herd immunity, transmissibility in a population is dramatically reduced via immunological mechanisms such that a transmissible disease never gains a foothold.


Consider whether the same principle could apply on a behavioural level. As the body’s humoural immune responses deflect infection, so do behaviours that block routes into the body for an infectious agent. With a very large proportion of the population consistently implementing behaviours that reduce transmissibility, epidemics can be prevented or vastly limited, without the reactionary measure of quarantine.


We need to focus on crowdsourcing strategies that limit the ability of the infection to get a foothold in our population.


A vaccine would be nice and will eventually arrive. But in the meantime, epidemics like COVID-19 can be prevented by increasing the prevalence of precautionary behaviours in the general population that impede its spread.


These measures include a few familiar maxims, none of which are implemented consistently enough, and a few unfamiliar ones, which very much need to be taken up individually en masse. And soon.


The familiar ones:


  • wash your hands frequently and properly;
  • cover your mouth (with your arm) when coughing or sneezing;
  • avoid close contact with those who are already infected.

Before brushing off the above as obvious, we should ask ourselves: do we do these with complete consistency? Can we do better? Consider also the following less obvious but equally important behaviours:


1. Disinfect your mobile device screen twice per day


— it is a portable petri dish, accumulating bacteria and, yes, viruses. Antibacterial wipes are necessary here, as they generally kill viruses as well. Clean your device at least twice daily, once at lunch and once at dinner time (or linked to another daily routine). A recently published study estimates that viruses like COVID-19 may be able to persist for up to nine days on smooth glass and plastic surfaces, like a mobile phone screen.


Your mouth, nose, eyes and ears are all routes into your body for viruses, and your fingers are constantly in touch with surfaces that may contain viruses. This simple measure is very hard to maintain consistently, but is essential for infection control.


and give social kudos to people who are responsible enough to use them when sick.


4. Self-quarantine if you are ill and have a fever.


5. Engage your social network to brainstorm other simple behavioural changes.


Preventing spread


Strengthening herd immunity through behaviour is critical to preventing COVID-19 spread. We need to be talking about it more, and doing it more. In the sea of fear-provoking uncertainties, this is something that we are in control of individually and en masse.


Let’s do better about implementing the above precautionary behaviours with high consistency, and over the long-term.


And here’s a side benefit: we will be preventing many other infectious illnesses from spreading, including seasonal influenza, which kills more people in an average month than COVID-19 did last month.


The Full article here: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/coronavirus-behaviour-covid-19


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