Routine Infection Control During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The CDC says hand washing is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

It is important to remember that we all have a major role in containing the COVID-19 virus, and we need to work together to be successful at combating it. Every day, the story regarding the novel COVID-19 virus unfolds, and we must all be vigilant in obtaining our information from reliable sources to effectively implement protective and preventative measures against this virus.

While there is still great uncertainty about COVID-19, at the present time, our best defense is practicing universal infection control measures, such as routine handwashing. The CDC says hand washing is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.1 Unfortunately, many individuals underestimate the value of routine handwashing.

Results from 1 study explored hand washing practices of individuals in public restrooms. The study population included an estimated 3749 individuals. The researchers found that only 5% of individuals in the study washed their hands long enough to eradicate germs from their hands after using the restroom. The CDC recommends at least 20 seconds of vigorous hand washing with soap and water. According to the study, the majority of individuals in the study only washed their hands for 6 seconds.2

Crucial findings from the study revealed the following:2

  • 15% of men and 7% of women did not wash their hands.
  • Only 50% of the men and 78% of the women who did wash their hands used soap.
  • Dirty sinks were more likely to be avoided altogether — no handwashing was more commonly observed in bathrooms with dirty sinks.
  • Good hand hygiene was more prevalent earlier in the day. The authors believe that during the evenings/night time, when individuals are out eating and drinking, they are in a more relaxed mode and hand hygiene becomes less of a priority.
  • Signs encouraging individuals to wash their hands seem to help. Hand washing was more prevalent in bathrooms with signs.

Other studies have revealed comparable findings. For example, the CDC states that only 31% of men and 65% of women wash their hands after using the restroom. 3

While we cannot control the actions of others, such as price gouging, and the hoarding of food and essential household supplies, here’s what we can control and implement into our daily routines:

  • Only obtain information from reputable health care sources about COVID-19 such as the CDC, National Institutes of Health and World Health Organization.
  • If applicable, take your prescribed medications as you normally would.
  • Get sufficient rest, and maintain a healthy diet.
  • Practice routine relaxation techniques, since stress and anxiety can compromise your immune system.
  • Discuss concerns with your primary health care provider, especially if you are in a high-risk patient population, such as older patients, those with cardiopulmonary diseases, and those with compromised immune systems.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you must touch your eyes, nose or mouth, wash your hands before and after.
  • If you are sick, stay home.
  • Implement routine preventive measures to reduce or prevent the transmission of germs, such as routine hand washing for at least 20 seconds and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze (do not sneeze or cough in your hands!!).
  • For information about proper hand washing, visit the CDC’s Clean Hands Save Lives! campaign online.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Listen to the health experts.

Hopefully, as the health experts learn more about this novel virus, we will be able to decrease the number of cases. In the meantime, the best thing we can all do is to work together. This is a time of great uncertainty for all of us. While some news reports focus on the negative, there are positive stories out there.

With faith, common sense and patience, we will prevail. Remember the wise childhood advice from my dear mom and moms everywhere: Wash Your Hands! Wash Your Hands! Wash Your Hands!

A version of this article was originally published by A Pharmacist’s Perspective. It was reprinted with permission.

REFERENCES

  • Show Me the Science - Why Wash Your Hands? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html Published September 17, 2018. Accessed March 17, 2020.
  • Borchgrevink CP, Cha J, Kim S. Hand washing practices in a college town environment. J Environ Health. 2013;75(8):18—24.
  • Handwashing: A Corporate Activity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website . https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/handwashing-corporate.html Published July 25, 2016. Accessed March 17, 2020.