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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 427-430

To spray and pray? The “disinfectant spray” conundrum

1 Technical Advisor, Delta Zulu Consultancy, Pune, India
2 Reconstructive Surgeon, Command Hospital, Bangalore, Karnataka, India
3 Consultant (Joint Replacement), Medanta Hospital, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
4 Consultant (Acute Medicine and Toxicology), Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
5 Consultant (Nephrology), Command Hospital, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Correspondence Address:
Mudera P Cariappa
Delta Zulu Consultancy, Aura Solis, Wanowrie, Pune - 411 040, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mjdrdypu.mjdrdypu_281_20

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To contain the spread of the coronavirus, governments have instituted various stringent preventive measures including spraying disinfectants onto open spaces and people too, to reduce the spread of the virus. There is panic driving such responses especially in rural areas, where internally displaced workforces are now returning to their native villages. We seek to analyze the potential impact of such practices as a starting point for further scientific debate. We believe that findings of past studies on disinfection practices are not applicable to the spraying of open spaces or people as the conditions are totally different. We need to balance benefits with the potential for adverse risks of any public disinfection activities. As with other chemicals, spraying disinfectants into the environment is also likely to cause harm in some instances. While public authorities would wish to be seen to be doing something to reduce transmission and allay anxiety in the public, spraying disinfectant over public spaces and onto people could backfire substantially, if real or perceived adverse effects appear. Unanticipated consequences can result if consideration is not given to the Principle of Harm, which determines when Public health interventions are ethically justifiable and there is no attempt to minimize harm in the face of uncertainty. We recommend a systems approach to reporting of unintended harms from such interventions through a community based participatory process and further evaluation before implementation of such measures.

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