Carvajal: Serving spoons

Orlando Carvajal

IF somebody who has the novel coronavirus but without a face mask sneezes or coughs near you, your own face mask could prevent contagion as it takes from five to 10 seconds for virus-laden droplets to fall to the ground. But what if the virus drops on your hands and you rub your eyes or pick your nose with them?

What if you are dining with family and friends and there are no serving spoons? In a boodle fight meal, something like our Cebuano bahug-bahug style of group dining, food is spread over banana leaves to which everybody help themselves with their bare hands. In these instances you are literally ingesting each other’s saliva which might be carrying a virus or two. Even without the virus, I cringe at the thought of eating food laced with somebody else’s saliva.

It’s different in Taal’s eruption where a face mask is needed to prevent you from inhaling toxic ash that hangs endlessly in the air. But in the case of the flu, common cold and the novel corona, unwashed hands are the principal transmitters of these viruses. The face mask is mandatory only to those who have a virus so they don’t sneeze or cough into the air and spread it. As a preventive measure, face masks are useful only when you are with strangers in a crowded place.

Even more efficient in spreading a virus is a person’s saliva which, in this country, is casually shared in meals where either no serving spoons are used or people don’t bother using them even if available. I am surprised the Department of Health never mentions this as a preventive measure. If you eat with people who get food from the server-plate with their used spoon and fork, the only way you can avoid infection from a virus in the saliva is if you have a robust immune system.

The DOH assures us it is fully prepared to deal with the virus. Maybe yes from their office window but from ground zero up I doubt if DOH can adequately deal with, for that matter, any virus when 30 million or so Filipinos have long been infected with the debilitating virus named poverty.

They cannot afford spoons and forks and eat with their bare hands from a common plate and drink from a common glass. They do not have running water and would rather buy food with their money than soap or face masks. They are also often seen blowing their nose or coughing directly into the air.

Fortunately, the new coronavirus has a slow transmission rate. Otherwise, we are in great peril as millions here are not educationally and financially capacitated to practice wellness and disease-prevention basics. Thus, in the end, poverty is the more deadly virus. It weakens people and prevents them from putting up defenses, as basic as washing hands and using serving spoons, against viruses.