Coronavirus prevention tips 101 for Jamaica's travelling athletes


Coronavirus prevention tips 101 for Jamaica's travelling athletes


Sunday, February 16, 2020

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People worldwide are troubled about the newly discovered strain of the coronavirus which has been named Sars CoV-2 by the World Health Organization (WHO).

It has caused a frightening disease, Covid-19, with infection of over 60,000 people worldwide and death rate hovering between 2-3 per cent.

We are not sure how it is spread, the regular mode of transmission seems to be airborne, but cases of transmission through housing piping systems, oral-faecal transmission and contaminated surface transmission, have also been reported.

Virus sequencing data indicates the pathogen, or virus, passed from bat to animal and then to human. Many of our athletes make their living by performing in the Diamond League and other international athletics meetings; it therefore means that while it is sometimes necessary to travel they must be careful to protect themselves and family.

Because we are not sure about contaminated meat products in Asia and affected regions, athletes should avoid some meat products if possible.

Steps are often taken to vaccinate animals in these regions, however, these vaccines in the animals can cause unwanted doping results as the metabolites might be manifested in the system of the athlete who eats these meat products.

It is going to be difficult to explain these results as many times the country will want to keep secret what was given to the animals for protection.

My postgraduate students are currently involved in research with many of Jamaica's most elite high school athletes.

We found that approximately all are dehydrated going into competition. I have, therefore, extrapolated that this phenomenon is cultural.

Our athletes have to hydrate themselves, especially when travelling. The virus is said to be able to be transmitted through piping systems.

The body with the large and small intestines and digestive system mimics piping in a house. Water is needed to flush the pipe. It means if an athlete is dehydrated and encounters a virus, the athlete is likely to retain that virus for longer than normal.

Athletes are also prone to respiratory tract infections, therefore, it is important that athletes hydrate well.

Data have shown that some people have been exposed to the coronavirus and have tested negative or present with mild symptoms; it therefore means the athletes must give themselves the best chance of survival if they are exposed to the virus.

Athletes and coaches must utilise international health check tools as they travel to athletic meetings. Tools are available for coaches and athletes to track where the coronavirus is, so as to avoid meetings in those areas.

Johns Hopkins' Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) map tracks the virus in real time and can be downloaded from their website.

A very effective tool is the Health Map which uses artificial intelligence to scrape posts on new sites and social media to create a heat map of the coronavirus.

This can give information on which region to avoid and which hotel not to check into.

It can also tell which transport to avoid as someone infected might have travelled in that transport previously.

There is also a Baidu Map which gives real time locations of the virus. The Chinese have an app which is a flight and train checker, which was created by a Chinese cybersecurity firm to indicate on which flight and train an infected person is most likely to travel.

Jamaica might want to quickly use the help of Google to develop an app like the Chinese transport app for our athletes.

The athlete must have a little emergency pack of face mask, gloves, and hand sanitiser, just in case they are travelling in a region where supplies are low and they need these to protect themselves.

Hand washing and not touching the face are very critical. It might be in the best interest of the athletes not to go to Japan, but if they must go, the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) must start to put things in place to give them the best protection option possible.

Editor's note: Rachael Irving, PhD, is a Professor of Sports Science and Biochemistry Department of Basic Medical Sciences Faculty of Medical Sciences UWI , Mona.

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