Experts and scientists since ages have recommended washing hands thoroughly with soap and water to get rid of germs or spread of germs to other parts of the body. At a time when the outbreak of Coronavirus or COVID-19 has instilled fear in every person's mind, many of us miss out on something as basic and effective as washing our hands properly.
"You can stay healthy and prevent the spread of infections by washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds," the Canadian government's website reads.
Washing hands and keeping them free of any germs is important as we touch our eyes, nose, and mouth without hands, prepare food with them, which inadvertently can makes us sick. These germs can be transferred to common surfaces putting others at risk for illness.
Karen Fleming, a scientist and professor at the Johns Hopkins University in the United States, in a tweet, clarified why everyone is emphasizing on handwashing and how can it actually protect one against the new deadly virus.
PSA for non-science folks: Wonder why everyone is emphasizing hand washing? Sounds banal, but soap really IS an amazing weapon that we all have in our homes. This is because coronavirus is an "enveloped" virus, which means that it has an outer lipid membrane layer.— Karen Fleming (@KarenFlemingPhD) February 28, 2020
Basically, it's surrounded by a fat layer. Washing your hands with soap and water has the ability to "dissolve" this greasy fatty layer and kill the virus. I'm told singing "Happy Birthday" twice is approximately how long we should all be scrubbing our hands with soap.— Karen Fleming (@KarenFlemingPhD) February 28, 2020
Plus, just imagine how much we will all laugh by singing happy birthday in the loo while we kill this bug!— Karen Fleming (@KarenFlemingPhD) February 28, 2020
Singing happy birthday twice while washing your hands will consume 20 seconds to completely get rid of harmful viruses and bacteria. This was also suggested by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).
"When viruses are enveloped, it means that they have an outer most wrapper that's basically a fatty, greasy outer covering," Fleming wrote on Twitter, saying that the outer covering is "just grease."
"And we all know that soaps and detergents can dissolve grease, so that means soap/detergents can also dissolve the outer viral envelopes of coronaviruses like COVID-19," she said, clarifying that she is not a health expert.
Washing hands has two goals: removing dirt and germs is the first and dissolving the greasy outer layer of viruses and killing them is second.
Jason Tetro, microbiologist and host of the Super Awesome Science Show podcast said: "The most important thing is that if your hands have touched a surface or have been in an environment where you cannot tell what the microbial composition probably is, then it's a very good likelihood that you want to wash your hands."
The chief public health officer of Canada, Dr Theresa Tam has often tweeted about the importance of handwashing as well as other ways to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Staying healthy while travelling during #MarchBreak is important. Everyday hygiene practices such as frequent #handwashing and #elbowsneeze can help reduce the risk of #COVID19. More tips and advice to stay healthy while travelling: https://t.co/uSUicOahiF pic.twitter.com/24vCMZPTOJ— Dr. Theresa Tam (@CPHO_Canada) March 2, 2020
You can help reduce your risk of infection or spreading infection to others by:— Dr. Theresa Tam (@CPHO_Canada) February 28, 2020
✅Frequent hand washing
✅Coughing and sneezing into your elbow
❌Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
Learn more: https://t.co/4EnoQCAbth #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/epaeznNOvQ
Other suggestions to avoid the spread of the deadly virus is to cough and sneeze into your elbow and not touch your face.
The World Health Organisation also advises maintaining a distance of about three feet from someone person who is coughing or sneezing, to avoid exposure to droplets: "When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus."