COULD WIGS AND SYNTHETIC HAIR EXTENSIONS BE SAFE HAVENS FOR THIS CUNNING AND ELUSIVE CORONAVIRUS? JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
BY PROF DOUGLAS BOATENG
On 17 March 2020 it was reported that a study from the National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University revealed that SAR-COV-2 (i.e. coronavirus) was stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces. Specifically, the study found that the virus was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. This study shows that people may be acquiring the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects or surfaces.
While the stability of the virus on general surfaces has been examined, little information is available of the virus’s ability to survive on wigs and synthetic hair extensions. There are currently hundreds of millions of wigs and hair extension pieces in use every day in Africa and around the globe. Dr Adam Friedman, the interim chair of dermatology at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences has revealed that these synthetic wigs and hair extensions, which are taken off daily after use, are different from natural hairs and do not have the natural oils and sometimes antimicrobial protection that natural hairs get from permanent attachment to the scalp.
When an asymptomatic SAR-COV-2 carrier (who is not wearing the right mask), yells, “coughs sneezes, or even loudly sing or chant” in the direction of a wig or hair extension wearer, some of his/her respiratory droplets (depending on the environment) will in all probability land on amongst others, the recipient’s clothing, hands, face, and on the synthetic hair.
Could this lethal coronavirus beast also settle and survive on artificial wigs and hair extensions surfaces waiting to pounce?
Dr Friedman postulates that depending on the circumstances of the hair, the coronavirus could survive on its surface. However, according to Dr. Saad Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, scientific research on whether the surface on wigs and hair extensions can harbour this elusive virus and for how long is yet to be done. While “theoretically” SAR-COV-2 could be passed from hair to hands to mucosa, Dr Saad says there is currently no research to back this notion.
There is still a lot unknown about this very sneaky virus . Almost every day, new material is revealed about SAR-COV-2. Most of this information is to do with potential ways to understand as well as contain the spread of this highly contagious microorganism.
The big question is whether through rational thinking, “extra” precautionary measures should at least for now be taken by wig wearers and hair extension users?
While users of these products wait for European, Asian, American and/or our relatively underfunded African scientists to conduct research to prove or reject the highly plausible notion that wigs and hair extensions could possibly be safe havens for the coronavirus, it may be worthwhile for both female and male users of wigs and synthetic hair to seriously consider practicing additional simple decontamination measures. These could include: (1) Lessening the patting of the wig and hair extension when worn. (2) Washing and sanitizing hands any time they touch their wig or hair extension; (3) regularly washing wigs and hair extensions with antibacterial shampoo to prevent any matter from settling on these porous surfaces and (4) Disinfecting hair mannequins and other storage areas for wigs and hair pieces.
The majority of the informed population has now unhappily acceded to the fact that SAR-COV-2 is here to stay for a while. However, through science and engineering, self-discipline, rationality and common sense, adherence to proven and adaptable guidelines, including WHO recommended guidelines to regularly wash and sanitise hands, improve personal hygiene, clean surfaces, wear face masks, and social distance, etc. humans will again adjust to co-exist with this very cunning and elusive beast.
Professor Douglas Boateng is an international chartered director and Africa’s first ever appointed Professor Extraordinaire for Industrialization and Supply Chain Governance. www.panavest.com