Coronavirus has raised profound questions about what it means to be human in the 21st century. It has exposed the weaknesses and strengths in the institutions we cherish, such as our healthcare systems and economies. On a more personal level, it has shone a light on our appetite for daily interaction.
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The social distancing measures that have been enforced by the UK government aim to reduce the rate of the transmission by limiting physical contact.
To date, the two most significant measures have been a nationwide lockdown and observing a two metre distance from people you do not live with.
The measures are informed by the understanding that COVID-19 is a respiratory infection so it is spread in droplets.
The constraints on physical contact has led researchers to investigate whether COVID-19 could be transmitted through sexual contact.
The most recent study to investigate the link is published in the journal of Fertility and Sterility.
Researchers analysed semen samples from 34 men in China an average of one month after they were diagnosed with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.
The results suggest that sexual intercourse is a safe activity to engage in amid the outbreak.
Laboratory tests did not detect the coronavirus in any of the semen samples, and there was no evidence of the virus in the men’s testes.
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While this small study suggests that the chances of sexual transmission of the coronavirus are remote, it wasn’t absolute enough to fully rule out the possibility, however, the researchers noted.
“The fact that in this small, preliminary study that it appears the virus that causes COVID-19 doesn’t show up in the testes or semen could be an important finding,” said study co-author Dr. James Hotaling, an associate professor of urology specialising in male fertility at University of Utah Health.
He continued: “If a disease like COVID-19 were sexually transmittable, that would have major implications for disease prevention and could have serious consequences for a man’s long-term reproductive health.”
Along with the small number of patients, another limitation of the study was that none of them were severely ill with COVID-19, the authors noted.
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“It could be that a man who is critically ill with COVID-19 might have a higher viral load, which could lead to a greater likelihood of infecting the semen. We just don’t have the answer to that right now,” Dr Hotaling said.
He added: “But knowing that we didn’t find that kind of activity among the patients in this study who were recovering from mild to moderate forms of the disease is reassuring,” he added.
As Dr Hotaling points out, the activity still carries indirects risks, however.
Dr Hotaling warned that intimate contact can still increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus through coughing, sneezing and kissing.
He also cautioned that some infected people don’t have symptoms and appear healthy, but can still transmit the coronavirus to others.
How to reduce your risk of catching and spreading COVID-19
According to the NHS, maintaining good hygiene practices is the surest way to reduce the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19.
One key piece of advice is to regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water, advises the World Health Organization (WHO).
Why? “Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands,” says the health body.
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