WHO: Alcohol and COVID-19- what you need to know. | Daily News


 

WHO: Alcohol and COVID-19- what you need to know.

Alcohol is known to be harmful to health in general, and is well understood to increase the risk of injury and violence, including intimate partner violence, and can cause alcohol poisoning. At times of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol consumption can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviours, mental health issues and violence. WHO reminds people that drinking alcohol does not protect them from COVID-19, and encourages governments to enforce measures which limit alcohol consumption.

As part of its public health response to COVID-19, WHO has worked with partners to develop a factsheet which addresses myths and provides guidance during the pandemic: “Alcohol and COVID-19: what you need to know”.

Fear and misinformation have generated a dangerous myth that consuming high-strength alcohol can kill the COVID-19 virus. It does not. Consuming any alcohol poses health risks, but consuming high-strength ethyl alcohol (ethanol), particularly if it has been adulterated with methanol, can result in severe health consequences, including death.

Alcohol consumption is associated with a range of communicable and noncommunicable diseases and mental health disorders, which can make a person more vulnerable to COVID-19. In particular, alcohol compromises the body’s immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes. Therefore, people should minimize their alcohol consumption at any time, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alcohol is a psychoactive substance that is associated with mental disorders; people at risk or who have an alcohol-use disorder, are particularly vulnerable, especially when in self-isolation. Medical and treatment services need to be alert and ready to respond to any person in need.

Restricting alcohol access during the COVID-19 pandemic

Alcohol is responsible for 3 million deaths a year worldwide including Europe. Not only is this the region with the highest alcohol intake and the highest prevalence of drinkers in the population, but it is also the region with the highest prevalence of alcohol use disorders in the population and the highest share of deaths caused by alcohol, among all deaths.

“Alcohol is consumed in excessive quantities in the European Region, and leaves too many victims. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we should really ask ourselves what risks we are taking in leaving people under lockdown in their homes with a substance that is harmful both in terms of their health and the effects of their behaviour on others, including violence,” says Carina Ferreira-Borges, Programme Manager, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs Programme, WHO/Europe.

Existing rules and regulations to protect health and reduce harm caused by alcohol, such as restricting access, should be upheld and even reinforced during the COVID-19 pandemic and emergency situations; while any relaxation of regulations or their enforcement should be avoided.

This needs to be complemented by communicating with the public about the risks of alcohol consumption, and maintaining and strengthening alcohol and drug services.

“When you ingest alcohol it can actually disrupt the natural barrier in our GI system that protects you from viruses and bacteria,” Dr. Michael Petry from Norton Community Medical Associates - Crestwood said. “Some of the ways they propose it does that is by killing your normal bacteria and it alters your gut flora it can also damage the cells that line it and damage the immune fighting cells in your gut.”

Doctors says alcohol consumption and also smoking basically give the virus a leg up. “One of the earliest publications out of China did notice significant increase in risks for complications in persons who smoked tobacco,” Audrey Darville from the University of Kentucky College of Nursing said.

Smoking and vaping both cause damage to your lung’s natural defenses against invasive bacteria and viruses.

“If we think about it critically smoking related activity that we are concerned about right now is the hand to mouth,” Darville said. “We are talking to people about the importance of hand washing keeping your hands away from your face. But, when you are smoking or vaping, you are bringing your hands to your mouth. A lot of sources say about 300 times a day.”

Darville says smoking and vaping exposes the user to chemicals that weaken the immune system and limit the body’s ability to fight off infection. Tobacco treatment specialist say now is a good time to quit smoking or vaping, even if it’s temporary to help protect against the coronavirus.

It does work as a disinfectant on surfaces, but too much alcohol consumption can actually make the body less capable of handling the coronavirus. A 2015 study published in the journal Alcohol Research found that excessive alcohol consumption is associated with “adverse immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia.”

WHO also notes that alcohol may put those with mental health struggles and a history of alcohol-use disorders are at greater risk due to increased self-isolation. It may also heighten the risk of domestic violence.

Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS) published a report this week debunking false claims that consuming wine, beer and spirits could protect people from the viral disease.

The ISS stated that “consuming alcohol does not protect from Covid-19 in any way”.

In fact, the report explains, heavy drinking increases the risk of infection because it “damages all the components of the immune system”.

It states that alcohol consumption in fact increases the risk of contracting all types of viral infections by reducing the number of certain types of cells needed for immunity.

Officials strongly advised against excessive consumption of alcohol while in quarantine, pointing out that this can lead to addiction and is “closely connected to the risk of violence, especially violence towards one’s partner”.Domestic violence reports in Italy, as in other countries, have soared since quarantine began.The ISS debunked several false claims currently circulating about alcohol and the coronavirus, including one that says heavy drinking kills the virus in air that is inhaled.

In fact, alcohol “does not disinfect the mouth and the throat and does not give any form of protection,” the ISS writes.

An alcohol concentrations of at least 60 percent “works as a disinfectant of the skin, but it does not have this effect when it is ingested into the organism,” it explains.

The report recommended people avoid drinking alcohol altogether, and described lockdown as “a unique opportunity to stop drinking.”


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