Frequent hand washing is absolutely essential when it comes to ways that we can reduce the spread of Covid-19. The question is, why is it so important? New research¹ sheds light on the answer to this question.
Researchers evaluated the stability of the SARS CoV-2 virus on human skin and compared it to influenza A, which is the same virus that causes pandemic flu like H1N1. They found that SARS CoV-2 lasts about 9 hours on human skin, as opposed to less than 2 hours for influenza A.
This stability is much less than on other surfaces such as glass, plastic, and stainless steel. Still, 9 hours is a pretty long time. They also found that 80% ethanol inactivates the virus within 15 seconds.
What does this mean?
First, while it is becoming increasingly evident that SARS CoV-2 is an airborne virus, given this data, it is conceivable that one can catch Covid-19 by touching your hand to your nose, eyes, and mouth. And so, it is imperative that we wash our hands — for at least 20 seconds with soap and water ideally — frequently…very frequently.
We should not go 9 hours without washing our hands, especially if we have been out to the grocery store, or gas station, or even an outdoor restaurant. If we can’t use soap and water, we should use alcohol-based sanitizer and rub until our hands are dry.
As far as I am concerned, we can’t wash our hands enough. When I’m working in the ICU, I don’t go 9 minutes without washing my hands. We can’t be too safe, and unlike the contention of some, you need to be afraid of Covid-19. This is a horrific disease, and you don’t want to get it. Trust me.
- Ryohei Hirose, Hiroshi Ikegaya, Yuji Naito, Naoto Watanabe, Takuma Yoshida, Risa Bandou, Tomo Daidoji, Yoshito Itoh, Takaaki Nakaya, Survival of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza virus on the human skin: Importance of hand hygiene in COVID-19, Clinical Infectious Diseases, , ciaa1517, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa1517