By Georgina Magondu and Brian Okoth
The coronavirus stays alive on clothes of carriers for a maximum of 12 hours, after which it becomes inactive, says Aga Khan Hospital Medical Chief of Staff Majid Twahir.
Twahir’s revelation comes hours after reports circulated on social media — including instant messaging service, WhatsApp — that mitumba clothes imported from countries hard hit by coronavirus could be carrying the killer COVID-19.
“We warn all Africans not to acquire or search for used clothing during this period, and also during the period to come, because most European cities which are currently experiencing the spread of the coronavirus, are getting rid of clothes of infected patients — both dead and alive,” said the social media report whose source remains anonymous.
“Many of those who care about exporting these clothes, do not care about the health of others, and they now collect them with the intent to sell them to African traders who import the clothes to various African countries,” added the now-viral claim.
“It would be better now and for your safety and that of your children to avoid the use of newly acquired used clothing,” advised the source.
Following increased panic and concerns among social media users in Kenya, we posed the question to the Aga Khan Hospital Medical Chief of Staff Majid Twahir, who allayed the fears, saying the virus can only remain alive for a maximum of 12 hours “while stuck on the clothes”.
“The coronavirus stays on clothes for only 12 hours, after which, they cannot survive. I would, therefore, say the outbreak of coronavirus hasn’t directly affected the mitumba industry,” said Twahir during a press conference on Tuesday, March 10 at the Aga Khan Hospital in Parklands, Nairobi.
The chairperson of the Aga Khan Hospital coronavirus infection taskforce, Prof. Rodney Adam, highlighted some of the key symptoms of the coronavirus, saying its incubation period is between 2 to 5 days.
“The main symptoms are fever and cough. People with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes stand higher infection risk,” said Prof. Adam, adding: “Mortality varies by age and one’s general health status.”
Some of the measures the Aga Khan Hospital has taken to allay coronavirus fears at the facility, includes vaccinating staff members against influenza such that normal flu won’t be confused for the dreaded coronavirus.
Prof. Adam said so far, none of their patients has been admitted with coronavirus symptoms.