Promoting simple infection control measures could help reduce the spread and severity of Covid-19 within households or community settings where someone is infected, according to UK researchers.
Use of such behavioural interventions could “support public health advice to improve infection control in families”, according to the group from Southampton, Oxford, Bristol and London.
“People caring for household members who are unwell should be encouraged to take measures to reduce infecting viral load”
They said those caring for household members should be urged to take measures such as handwashing and cleaning, avoiding sharing rooms and surfaces, managing incoming deliveries, and ventilating rooms to limit transmission.
Wiring in the British Medical Journal, they said their advice was based on evidence suggesting “viral load” – the number of viral particles that start the infection – was important for novel coronavirus.
Generally, the higher the viral load, the easier it was for the infection to get hold and the more severe the infection, said Professor Paul Little, from the University of Southampton, and his co-authors.
They noted that, while current government policy was aimed at reducing transmission of coronavirus between family units, less attention had been given to transmission between family members.
It was not practical for people at home to use the same methods that were used to protect hospital workers from infection from patients, so alternative advice was needed, they suggested.
In particular, they highlighted an existing intervention that they argued could be rapidly distributed and that had been previously shown to reduce incidence, transmission, and severity of seasonal flu.
Germ Defence is a website, previously developed by Southampton University, that provides advice on infection control measures and helps users think about when and how to carry out key infection control behaviours.
Originally created during the H1N1 pandemic, the website was now being adapted by some of the BMJ article authors for Covid-19, who said it was set to be rolled out nationally and internationally to help limit transmission.
The authors highlighted that the web-based intervention had been “shown to reduce incidence, transmission, and severity of seasonal flu”.
They noted that “care” was needed when “extrapolating evidence” from other diseases, but that viral load was “likely to be important for Covid-19” transmission.
“People caring for household members who are unwell should be encouraged to take measures to reduce infecting viral load in order to reduce the incidence and severity of infection,” they said.
They added: “Promoting infection control measures in the community is a priority for the UK government and will continue to be so as ‘stay at home’ policies are lifted.
“Dissemination of evidence-based behavioural interventions may help increase adoption of public health advice and reduce viral load.”