A virus needs a host to live. With the coronavirus, the primary means of transmitting the virus is person-to-person, meaning an infected person sneezes or coughs and the droplets enter another person. That is why public health officials are urging us to practice social distancing.
However, it may also spread from surfaces and objects. The virus can live on surfaces outside of a host (human) from anywhere from a few hours to a few days. This is why hand washing is so important. Think of all the surfaces you touch, both inside and outside of the home: a light switch, a door knob, the refrigerator handle, the microwave, the remote control, a gas pump, the numbers on a debit card machine when you’re entering your pin number, a pen at the bank, the lock to a bathroom stall, the list goes on. Viruses (as well as bacteria) can be on these surfaces, and your hands can easily be the vessel that gets you sick if you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes without effectively washing your hands.
Proper hand washing should take around 30 seconds total (20 of that is scrubbing hands with soap). If you don’t think you have 30 seconds to wash, think of how much time it will take to recover from an illness, whether it’s from the coronavirus, the influenza virus, the common cold, or a foodborne illness. 30 seconds doesn’t seem that long.
As responsible and wise consumers, we need to do our part to protect ourselves and the general public and from spreading any pathogen, coronavirus or not. While COVID-19 is more likely to spread from person-to-person and it’s best to avoid large crowds, hand washing can go a long way too, too.
Proper way to wash your hands (CDC.gov):
- First wet your hands under running water and apply soap
- Form a lather by rubbing your soapy hands together. Don’t just focus on the palms of your hands; get the backs of the hands, under your fingernails, and wrists, too.
- Vigorously scrub hands for 20 seconds. You can sing “Happy Birthday” in your head twice to get to 20 seconds.
- Rinse hands under running water.
- Dry with a paper towel.