Health

Can my mattress get contaminated if I had the virus? Your COVID-19 questions answered

We're answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to COVID@cbc.ca and we’ll answer as many as we can. We’ll publish a selection of answers every weekday online, and also put some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network.

From mattress contamination to street spraying, here's what you’re asking us today

The coronavirus can linger on different surfaces for varying amounts of time. Mattresses are no exception, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

We're breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic by answering your questions. You can send us your questions via email at COVID@cbc.ca and we'll answer as many as we can. We'll publish a selection of answers every weekday on our website, and we're also putting some of your questions to the experts on the air during The National and on News Network.  

So far we've received more than 20,000 emails from all corners of the country. Your questions have surprised us, stumped us and got us thinking. 

I had COVID-19, do I have to throw out my mattress? 

A lot of people, including Harvinder B., are wondering how to deal with their mattress, after a case of COVID-19.

The virus is most commonly spread person to person, but we know the coronavirus can persist on different surfaces for varying amounts of time. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch says "mattresses are no different," adding the virus could linger between two hours and two days. 

Dr. Bogoch suggests mattresses can be disinfected with conventional products approved for use against the coronavirus. You can find Health Canada's recommendations here

To be extra safe, try throwing your sheets in the wash a little more frequently. 

Do I need to wipe my dog's paws after we go outside for a walk?

Catherine M. from Ottawa asks whether the virus can lodge in the pads of her dog's paws when she takes him for a walk and how to ensure they don't bring the virus into the house. 0:39

Pets are a hot topic in our inbox, including this email from Catherine M. about her dog's paws. CBC News medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin says it is not necessary if your pet walked on dry ground because even if the virus did touch a dog's paw, "it doesn't last very long there." 

However, Dr. Lin urges dog owner to avoid walking their pets through puddles because  "who knows what else is in the puddle?"

While the probability of bringing the virus home after walking your dog is low, Dr. Lin says you can use soap and water to wash your pet's paws as opposed to anything with chemicals. He also reminds people not to wear their shoes in the house.

Should we be spraying the streets with disinfectant?

Our inbox is full of emails about spraying including this question from Michael F. 

In Canada, it's not uncommon for city workers to use backpack sprayers and truck-mounted foggers to kill mosquitoes, but should we be using this equipment to kill the coronavirus?   

China, Iran and France are already trying to disinfect public spaces with widespread spraying. Even Amazon is experimenting with disinfectant fogging to clean its warehouses. The company told CBC News it will "supplement the enhanced cleaning measures that are already in place."

But does spraying work?

Unlike the West Nile virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, COVID-19 is believed to spread mainly from person to person.

Respiratory viruses like the coronavirus are typically transmitted by touching your face or breathing in droplets that an infected person has just breathed out.

When the virus is found on high-traffic surfaces like doorknobs, it doesn't seem to last long — a few days at most, said Tim Sly, a professor emeritus at Ryerson University's School of Occupational and Public Health,

"In this case, it's as much to do with wanting to appear to be doing something as it is actually achieving any objective," he said, adding "It's really gallons and gallons of disinfectant going down the drain.… The cost-effectiveness is really not there."

Read more about whether spraying is a good way to fight COVID-19 here.

Will the provinces make it tough to roll back physical distancing?

Carmen from Vancouver is wondering how Canada can coordinate a plan to relax physical distancing when every province and territory is experiencing different rates of COVID-19. 

We put this question to Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam.

Tam warned that Canadians will still need to maintain physical distancing for some time, even once we've passed the peak infection rate because we have no immunity to "this completely novel virus in Canada." 

Once health officials have a better handle on the level of immunity in Canada, Tam says they'll then "be able to adjust those public health measures accordingly." 

But Tam says the main goal is to reduce transmission. That means testing, tracking and tracing COVID-19 cases to best determine when and where physical distancing measures can be relaxed.  

For more information, watch our CBC News Covid-19 Townhall.

Friday we answered questions about the virus's lifespan to using self-checkout at grocery stores? Read here.

Keep your questions coming by emailing us at COVID@cbc.ca.

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