Is handwashing enough?

Washing your hands is great, but it isn’t enough to stop the spread of influenza. Experts from the University of California-Berkeley, Mark Nicas (Environmental Health Sciences) and Arthur Reingold (Epidemiology) say handwashing is one of several ways to combat influenza. Other ways include not touching your face (eyes nose, or mouth) and staying home from school or work if sick.

Reingold says you’re more likely to get sick from influenza, especially the H1N1 virus, from airborne particles because inhaling the flu particles gives you a larger dose than by touching a contaminated object. And, according to Nicas, students at UC Berkeley touch their face an average of 16 times per hour. That is 384 times to transmit what ever is on your hands into mucus glands located in your mouth, eyes, and nose in one day.

Since influenza transmission hasn’t been studied as much as other viruses, like the rhinovirus, the best method of prevention remains unknown. Still, handwashing is a wonderful tool to use; we must remember other preventative ways as well. Stay home and away from others if you’re sick or you feel like you’re getting sick, don’t touch your face, and cover your nose and mouth with your elbow when sneezing and coughing.