- Lucia Blasco
- BBC World News
Comparing the coronavirus pandemic to Swiss cheese may seem strange, but to virologist Ian M. Mackay, from New Zealand, it is the perfect analogy to help people protect themselves against it.
“No single preventive measure that we try to implement to combat covid works 100%”, but when “we start to put different layers (measures) together, we create an effective barrier”, says the scientist to BBC News Mundo, BBC’s Spanish service.
In his infographic, Mackay shows how each slice of Swiss cheese – that is, each combat measure – has holes (imperfections), and how to combine them can result in greater protection against the virus.
“We know, for example, that masks are useful, but alone are not enough”, says the scientist. “Vaccines will be great news, but even when the first one arrives – sometime next year – it will not resolve the pandemic on its own. It is vital to take into account all layers (measures) instead of just one. And each one of them has its complexities. For example, not all masks are equally effective or are used properly, which is why each measure has several imperfections. “
According to the graph proposed by Mackay, social distance is the most important measure because it is “the key to slow the spread of the virus”.
“A respiratory virus cannot spread between two people who are very far apart. The other layers can vary in order of importance depending on the circumstances,” says the scientist.
In addition to physical distance (which includes the care of staying at home if you are ill), Mackay emphasizes the use of masks, hand hygiene and cover when coughing, limiting time in closed spaces where there are other people, avoiding crowds and having ventilation or air filtration system in closed spaces.
In the graph there is also a line that passes through the holes in each slice, which “means that imperfections in several layers can add up and let the virus through – in different situations. Therefore, several measures must be implemented to reduce the risk. more layers, the easier it will be to cover these holes “, replies the virologist.
“If there are several people in a room close enough to each other, but the room is well ventilated, they are less likely to get the virus than if there is no ventilation.”
“By implementing multiple interventions, you really increase the chances of having the least possible risk of spreading the virus.”
The Swiss cheese model was originally proposed in the 1990s by James T. Reason, a researcher at the University of Manchester (United Kingdom), to explain why failures and accidents occur in complex systems.
It is, in fact, a method of risk analysis and management that has nothing to do with respiratory infections and is widely used in sectors such as aviation, engineering and health. It is also known as the cumulative effect model
Mackay, who in addition to being a researcher is an adjunct professor at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Queensland (Australia), believes that the Reason hypothesis can serve as “an evolving model and a great way to show how to reduce risk” of contracting SARS- CoV-2, the virus that causes covid.
It is a model that can also be applied to other viruses that cause respiratory diseases.
“Due to the structure of our societies and the habits we are used to, it is inevitable that a pandemic of respiratory viruses will affect many people, even with vaccines. The truth is that the more measures we adopt, the better”, he says.
Individual and shared responsibility
In his chart (updated on October 24), Mackay distinguishes between individual and shared responsibility strategies, as some actions can be applied at the individual level (what you can do, like putting on a mask) or community level (what the governments implement, how to establish quarantines and lockdowns, that is, confinements).
One of the most important “layers” for Mackay within the “shared responsibility” level is that which has to do with information and messages from governments in communicating their measures.
“Disinformation is a problem that is growing in the world and we need to take it seriously. (…) I think it is a growing problem, mainly due to the use of social networks,” he tells BBC News Mundo.
“Some rumors without scientific evidence can be propagated on the internet by many people and erode any of these layers because they change what people think about masks and other elements,” says Mackay.
The scientist also points out that if there are guidelines from governments that, for example, require the use of a mask, maintaining social distance or avoiding travel, it is important to follow them. “Doing this is vital for the fight against the disease to be effective”, he concludes.
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*The article has been translated based on the content of Source link by https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/brasil-54977391
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