These are scary, uncertain, challenging times. It seems the coronavirus is all around us, shutting down our schools, churches, restaurants, stores, communities, and even large parts of the economy. States like New York, New Jersey, Illinois and California are on full quarantine lockdown. Some days, it can feel like we are all caught in a terrifying episode of “The Twilight Zone” or living a Stephen King novel.
COVD-19 seemingly surrounds us at every turn.
But for all the unknowns and uncertainties and rumors and prevention riddles surrounding the coronavirus, there are two proven, gospel, universal truths of proper hand hygiene that Americans can still turn to.
Handwashing and hand sanitizer. And if we take care of ourselves with proper hand hygiene and germ transmission prevention methods, we can keep our family, friends and neighbors safe.
With strong personal hygiene, we’re going to be OK, even as scary as the coronavirus statistics and stories may be.
Worldwide, the dangerous viral infection has become a viscous pandemic. As of March 22, COVID-19 had infected more than 333,000 people, killed over 15,000 shaken the global economy and put an apprehensive world on edge. In the U.S., confirmed cases now top 30,000, deaths are over 400. In Iowa, over 50 cases have been reported. Infection and death numbers are expected to soar in the coming weeks as coronavirus tests become more available.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says a vaccine could still be a year to 18 months away, if testing goes well.
COVID-19’s terrible timing is dealing a double health threat to a weary American public already weathering a torrid flu season. The CDC reports that as of March 22 36 million Americans had acquired influenza, with 370,000 requiring hospitalization and 22,000 dying from flu-related complications. In Iowa, nearly 50 people have passed away due to flu-related complications this season.
The most heartbreaking statistic of the 2019-20 U.S, cold and flu season: It’s claimed at least 144 lives of children younger than 18. That total is only topped by the 2009 H1N1 pandemic since authorities began tracking flu data in 2004.
“Let’s be clear: There’s going to be a very rough road ahead of us over the next weeks and months,” Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, told USA Today March 18. “We need the determination of the American people” to get through it.
While Americans stock up on breathing masks like the N95 in droves – causing severe mask shortages at hospitals and healthcare centers across the country – the CDC is not recommending them as adequate protection against the coronavirus. Erin Sorrell, a member of the Center for Global Health Science and Security, told BuzzFeed News “the virus is so small, it can penetrate the mask. So it literally does nothing for you.”
Instead, the CDC says, utilizing smart regular hand hygiene like regular handwashing and hand sanitizer is the best way for Iowans to keep themselves, their families and friends coronavirus-free. Researchers have concluded COVID-19 is mainly spread via respiratory droplets – or the the coughs and sneezes of infected individuals. Americans have begun also stocking up on hand sanitizer nationwide with companies like the Clorox Company increasing production to “in order to be prepared to meet the needs of people, retailers, healthcare facilities and communities,” a Clorox representative told Time.
In their guidelines on how to prevent infection with the novel coronavirus, the World Health Organization stresses people should “wash their hands frequently with soap and water.” And when water and soap are not readily available, University of Iowa professor Stanley Pearlman, who works at the school’s Carver College of Medicine, reminds us hand sanitizer are undisputed virus killers.
“Anything that’s equivalent to washing your hands is probably useful,” Pearlman told BuzzFeed. “Hand sanitizers have agents in them that are antiviral, that kill viruses.”
Although many household cleaners and germ prevention productions like hand sanitizer haven’t been tested to work against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the Environmental Protection Agency guidelines allow companies to say “their product can be effective as what is termed as human coronavirus,” Brian Sansoni, a spokesperson for the American Cleaning Institute, told Time.
And what is 100 percent certain, and a rare certainty about coronavirus, is smart, cautious and methodical hand hygiene is our best defense against the coronavirus, and any other potentially lethal viral infections.
These are terrifying, tumultuous times, but we can and will get through it by taking care of ourselves, taking care of our families, and by taking care of our friends and neighbors.
For strong personal hand hygiene and pathogen transmission contagion measures save lives and will get us through this great worldwide health threat and to a safer, brighter and healthier tomorrow.
“If everyone complies with good hygiene,” Sally Bloomfield, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told The Guardian, “then you’re making sure as far as possible that you’re not picking it up, and in the unlikely event you are infected you are not spreading it.”