Why gloves 'do little to protect against the coronavirus'

A woman wearing a mask and gloves in Turin. Italy has had more than 35,700 confirmed cases since the coronavirus outbreak was identified. (Getty Images)

Gloves will do little to ward off the coronavirus, experts have said.

The new strain is thought to have emerged at a seafood and live animal market in the Chinese city Wuhan at the end of last year.

It has since spread globally, with cases confirmed in more than 150 countries across every inhabited continent.

With the death toll exceeding 9,000 and no drug to “kill” the virus, prevention is all the more important.

In a bid to stay virus-free, members of the public have been spotted sporting latex gloves when out and about.

While it may seem harmless, experts warn contaminated gloves could cause a person to become infected, with hand washing still the go-to.

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Staff are pictured disinfecting a tram in St Petersburg on 19 March. Russia has had 147 cases. (Getty Images)

Since the coronavirus outbreak was identified, more than 222,600 cases have been confirmed globally, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Of these patients, more than 84,500 have “recovered” and are now testing negative for the virus, which is thought to be mild in four out of five cases.

Cases have curbed in China, which reported no new “domestic” incidences in the past 24 hours.

Europe is now the epicentre of the pandemic, with Italy alone having more than 35,700 cases and over 2,000 deaths.

More than 45,000 tests have been carried out in the UK, with over 2,600 coming back positive and 108 patients dying.

Why gloves ‘do little’ to prevent the coronavirus

The coronavirus mainly spreads face-to-face via infected droplets that are expelled when a patient coughs or sneezes.

Evidence suggests the strain can also survive on surfaces, lingering for up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

People could therefore mistakenly contaminate their gloved hands.

Humans are tactile beings. Gloves may therefore be brought up to the eyes, mouth or nose – all entry points for the virus into the body.

“If people cannot stop touching their face, gloves will not serve a purpose,” said Dr Amesh Adalja from Johns Hopkins University.

A 2015 study in the American Journal of Infection Control found people touch their face on average 20 times an hour.

To combat the infection, officials are urging the public to wash their hands regularly.

“Gloves are not a substitute for washing your hands,” said Dr Adalja.

French health minister Olivier Veran added: “If you're wearing gloves, you're not washing your hands.”

The effectiveness of masks is also up for debate.

Masks rarely cover the eyes and are known to become less effective when wet, with us all having moisture in our breath.

With the coronavirus potentially surviving on fabric, people may also mistakenly contaminate their hands when they go to take the mask off.

“People are always re-adjusting their masks and that has the potential to contaminate them,” said France's head of health Jerome Salomon.

“If someone has come across the virus, it's surely going to be on the mask.”

Research suggests gloves and masks are effective in clinical settings, like hospitals.

This may be because doctors theoretically throw them away after every use, with the buildings also being disinfected regularly.

“There is little evidence to support the use of face masks or gloves outside of the clinical setting (e.g. treating a patient) to prevent becoming infected”, said Dr Tom Wingfield, from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends patients wear a mask if they suspect they have the coronavirus and are around other people.

“Patients with confirmed or suspected [coronavirus] should wear a face mask until they are isolated in a hospital or at home,” it states.

“The patient does not need to wear a face mask while isolated.”

If you are caring for someone with the coronavirus, Professor David Heymann from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine previously recommended both you and they wear a mask for “double protection”.

In this instance, gloves should also be worn if removed “properly”.

The CDC advises people grasp the outside of one glove at the wrist, without touching skin.

The glove should be peeled away so it turns inside out.

Holding the removed glove in the gloved hand, take off off the second glove by sliding the ungloved fingers under the glove, and peel it off so that too turns inside out.

Leave the first glove inside the second and throw both away; then wash your hands “immediately”.

Fever, fatigue, cough and shortness of breath are common with the coronavirus, but not necessarily colds or flu. (Yahoo UK)

What is the coronavirus?

The coronavirus is a strain of a class of viruses, with seven known to infect humans.

Others include the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which killed 774 people during its 2002/3 outbreak.

The coronavirus tends to cause flu-like symptoms initially, such as a fever, cough or slight breathlessness.

Although it mainly spreads via coughs and sneezes, there is also evidence it can be transmitted in faeces and urine.

While most cases are mild, pneumonia can come about if the infection spreads to the air sacs in the lungs, causing them to become inflamed and filled with fluid or pus.

The lungs then struggle to draw in air, resulting in reduced oxygen in the bloodstream and a build-up of carbon dioxide.

The coronavirus has no “set” treatment, with most patients naturally fighting off the infection.

Those requiring hospitalisation are offered “supportive care”, like ventilation, while their immune system gets to work.

As well as hand washing, officials recommend people stay well back from those showing symptoms.