People who pick their nose 'are more likely to get Covid' as new variant hits UK

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People who pick their nose
People who pick their nose 'are more likely to get Covid' as new variant hits UK

Healthcare workers who pick their noses could be are more likely to get Covid, according to a study - as a new variant hits the UK.

Researchers say those in such positions must be made aware of the risks of the habit when it comes to the potential for spreading coronavirus. 17% of 219 people taking part in the survey who admitted to picking their noses tested positive - compared to 6% who didn't.

Doctors - at a staggering 95% - were the most frequent nose pickers, followed by support staff (86%) and nurses (80%), following the survey at two university medical centres in The Netherlands in 2020.

On a whole, 85% of those taking part said they picked their nose "at least incidentally", with experts saying the habit maybe "underestimated" in its effectiveness at spreading the virus.

Meanwhile, a third of participants said they bite their nails but the study did not find a positive link between this habit and the likelihood of contracting Covid.

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Researchers said this could be due to saliva protecting against the virus, while the nose is the main route into the body. It is thought the virus could be present in the moist tissue lining the nose in the days after infection. Beards and glasses also didn't increase the risk.

People who pick their nose 'are more likely to get Covid' as new variant hits UKA new study has found a link between picking the nose and spreading Covid (Getty Images/beyond fotomedia RF)

Writing in the PLOS One journal, the team concluded: "Subsequently, nose picking healthcare workers who are infected with [coronavirus] could contaminate the work environment, potentially leading to further transmission."

The authors said the spread of Covid between hospital staff was a major problem and recommended "educational sessions against nose-picking in infection prevention guidelines".

It comes as experts warn a new wave of the virus is starting in the UK - but due to monitoring and tracking having stopped it is difficult to tell how it's developing.

Last week, the UK Health Security Agency and the World Health Organisation gave updates on a new variant called Eris - which has rapidly become the second most wide-spread coronavirus variant in the UK. The country has seen an increase in Covid cases and hospitalisations.

But many Covid surveillance studies tracking infection levels have finished, reports The Guardian. Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London, told the paper: “We might see the wave continue to grow, and grow faster, in September."

She supports the return of face masks in health settings and the return of close monitoring of the virus - with regular publication of Covid stats. She said: “What worries me most is if we get a repeat of the last winter NHS crisis this winter again, with Covid, flu and RSV all hitting around the same time. We are definitely flying near blind.”

Prof Steven Riley, the director general of data, analytics and surveillance at the UKHSA, said: “We continue to monitor the threat posed by Covid-19 through our range of surveillance systems and genomics capabilities, which report on infection rates, hospitalisations and the risks posed by new variants.” A new vaccine roll-out is expected this autumn with more people offered the Covid jab.

Ryan Merrifield

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