AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: hygiene

Protecting Ourselves Against COVID-19

How does COVID-19 spread?

According to this article by the CDC, there are two main ways the coronavirus spreads:

  • The inhalation/exchange of respiratory emissions from:
    • Coughing/Sneezing
    • Talking/Singing
    • Breathing
  • Touching a surface with the virus on it and (without washing hands) touching:
    • Eyes
    • Nose
    • Mouth


Preventing the spread of COVID-19

An article (source article) from Harvard Medical School explains everything you need to know about preventing the spread of the virus. Below is a summary of how to contribute to the prevention of the spread of the virus.


Protecting yourself and others:

In order to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus, you should avoid those who are infected and others if you are infected, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, and disinfect objects that are frequently touched daily. You should also minimize travel and time spent in crowds/close quarters.


Washing your hands:

Whenever your hands are dirty (ex: after using the bathroom) or are going to be near your face (ex: before eating a meal), wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you are unable to wash your hands during these times, sanitize with alcohol-based hand sanitizer. A guide for washing hands, created by the CDC, explains how to properly wash your hands in five simple steps:

  1. Run your hands under clean water until sufficiently wet, then acquire soap
  2. Rub the soap around the whole surface of your hand, between every finger, underneath every nail, etc.
  3. Keep doing this for at least 20 seconds
  4. Rinse off all the soap under clean water
  5. Dry your hands on a clean drying surface or let them air dry


Social Distancing:

Social distancing is when in social settings, people maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between each person. This is crucial for at least slowing down the rate of infected people, providing hospitals more time and resources to take care of infected people without being overwhelmed by a large number of patients. It’s important to note that just social distancing is not enough to prevent the spread of the virus, as respiratory emissions may linger and travel more than 6 feet when airborne. Make sure to also wear a mask and avoid the indoors and areas without air circulation while with other people.


Essential resources:

When grocery shopping, make sure to buy a lot of nonperishable goods to keep in case of an emergency. Make sure to wear a mask when going out, as masks prevent the spread of respiratory emissions and help prevent hands from touching faces. Wipe down surfaces such as carts and baskets before using and make sure to wash your hands after using. If you’re part of an increased risk group, try to avoid going out as much as possible.


Minimally useful measures:

Some individuals decide to take extra precautionary measures, but they are unnecessary for the most part. Some of these include wearing gloves and quarantining mail. In situations like these, just make sure to wash your hands after handling potentially infected objects, other measures do not help significantly.



Wear a mask! The most common way the virus spreads is, as stated before, through respiratory emissions. Wearing a mask prevents these emissions from traveling throughout the environment. Even asymptomatic people may carry/spread the virus, so it is important to wear a mask no matter what. Masks should fit tightly and be worn properly, completely covering the mouth and nose. Masks are not supposed to be an alternative to the other methods of prevention but should be used in addition to the other methods.



There is an alarming amount of young children put at risk from improper/a lack of safety measures. This article from explains how to properly protect children under the age of 2 from COVID-19. First of all, babies should not wear masks. This is because since their airways are extremely small, they will have a hard time breathing and may suffocate in a mask. They may also touch their face more frequently in attempts to remove the mask, increasing their risk of infection. Since they can’t wear masks, it is important to avoid going out in public with them if possible. If unavoidable, make sure to wash or sanitize your hands before handling them and put them in a stroller with a covering.


An analogy based on cells and membranes:

A simple way to think about it is as if the human body were a cell. The skin is like a cell membrane and the eyes, nose, and mouth are like channels in the membrane. Wearing a mask is like closing the channels in order to keep substances out. Being in a large group of people is similar to a cell in a hypotonic solution, making it more likely for the virus to “diffuse” into your body. Socially distancing is slightly similar to a cell in a hypertonic solution, for this makes it less likely for the virus to flow into the body. To sum up, just make sure to make smart decisions, wash your hands, maintain social distancing, and wear a mask. Following these guidelines will help us protect each other until the virus is no more.

That’s Disgusting!

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Have you ever watched something so gross you just have to make a face?
Scientists are studying disgust and how it may have helped us evolve into a clean, healthy, and surviving race.

Disgust isn’t just a learned behavior, as I assumed. It begins very early- as you can see on the faces of  these babies who are eating lemons for the first time. And the grammar school taunting of “you have cooties” is a hurtful taunt because the labeling evokes a small sense of disgust in the other children toward the child being teased. It is the disgust, and to a very small degree, the feeling of being shunned that creates the kindergarten tears.

Though teasing puts disgust in a negative light, it has done wonders for the human race.  According to Dr. Valerie Curtis from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine:

“[Disgust] is in our everyday life. It determines our hygiene behaviors. It determines how close we get to people. It determines who we’re going to kiss, who we’re going to mate with, who we’re going to sit next to. It determines the people that we shun, and that is something that we do a lot of.”

In other words, disgust partially defines who we spend time with, how we maintain ourselves and who we do not spend time with. Because we have a sense of disgust, we humans have kept ourselves clean enough to thrive in this bacteria filled world. Pregnant women are especially sensitive to disgust, especially in the first trimester, when fetal development is most fragile. It is also the time when the mothers immune system is the least strong. For these reasons, the mother’s emotional way of warding off disease — disgust —  is strengthened.

The emotion of disgust stems manly from the insula and amygdala. The insula, a “prune sized,” centrally located “slab of brain tissue,” causes many of the social emotions, including guilt, pride, and humiliation. The amygdala, similarly, is connected to human emotional responses, especially fear and pleasure.

Since disgust has show to be such a key factory in our motivation to stay clean, and healthy, Dr. Valerie Curtis (quoted above) along with other pubic health activists have been “trying to gross people out” in the name of hygiene. Through cartoons and pubic advertisements, the activists are aiming to invoke a sense of disgust in the current, unclean practices. The programs currently exist in Africa, India and England. Who knew disgust could be so helpful?

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