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Stopping the spread of coronavirus: It’s in your hands

Mar 19, 2020

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Despite decades of advancement in medicine, advice on disease prevention often comes back to something simple: Washing your hands.

This is for good reason. Up to 80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch.

Germs, including the novel coronavirus, can live on many of the surfaces we regularly touch—door handles, elevator buttons, cell phones, credit cards, etc. In fact, many of the surfaces that we’d assume are germy—like toilet seats—are cleaned regularly and have been shown to actually have fewer germs than those listed above.

While alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be effective in killing germs, when possible, hand washing is preferred.

You should wash your hands before preparing or eating food; before and after caring for someone who is sick; and after using the restroom or changing diapers. Additionally, pay a visit to the sink after coughing; blowing your nose or sneezing; touching animals; or handling garbage.

Proper technique is critical, too:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap. Any soap is fine.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

There is still much to learn about the novel coronavirus and advice from health experts will evolve. But I’m confident that the simple step of washing your hands will remain among the recommendations.

Detener la propagación del coronavirus: está en tus manos

A pesar de décadas de avance en la medicina, los consejos sobre prevención de enfermedades a menudo vuelven a algo simple: lavarse las manos.

Esto es por una buena razón. Hasta el 80% de las enfermedades transmisibles se transfieren por contacto.

Los gérmenes, incluido el nuevo coronavirus, pueden vivir en muchas de las superficies que tocamos regularmente: manijas de puertas, botones de elevadores, teléfonos celulares, tarjetas de crédito, etc. De hecho, muchas de las superficies que supondríamos son gérmenes, como asientos de inodoros. —Se limpian regularmente y se ha demostrado que en realidad tienen menos gérmenes que los enumerados anteriormente.

Si bien los desinfectantes para manos a base de alcohol pueden ser efectivos para matar gérmenes, cuando sea posible, se prefiere lavarse las manos.

Debe lavarse las manos antes de preparar o comer alimentos; antes y después de cuidar a alguien que está enfermo; y después de usar el baño o cambiar pañales. Además, visite el fregadero después de toser; sonarse la nariz o estornudar; tocar animales; o manejo de basura.

La técnica adecuada también es crítica:

  • Mójar las manos con agua limpia y corriente (tibia o fría), cierre el grifo y aplique jabón. Cualquier jabón está bien.
  • Enjabona tus manos frotándolas con el jabón. Asegúrese de enjabonar el dorso de las manos, entre los dedos y debajo de las uñas.
  • Frote sus manos por al menos 20 segundos. ¿Necesitas un temporizador? Hum la canción "Feliz cumpleaños" de principio a fin dos veces.
  • Enjuague bien las manos con agua limpia y corriente.
  • Séquese las manos con una toalla limpia o séquelas al aire.

Todavía queda mucho por aprender sobre el nuevo coronavirus y evolucionarán los consejos de expertos en salud. Pero estoy seguro de que el simple paso de lavarse las manos seguirá entre las recomendaciones.


Dr. O’dell Moreno Owens is the president and chief executive officer of Interact for Health and InterAct for Change. Dr. Owens is a reproductive endocrinologist. He earned an MD, an OB/GYN residency and a master’s of public health degree from Yale University School of Medicine. He also obtained a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology at Harvard Medical School. In recent years, Dr. Owens has served as the Hamilton County Coroner, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College President, and Interim Health Commissioner and Medical Director of the Cincinnati Health Department. 

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