Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Want to protect against H1N1, put down the sanitizer

With the H1N1 making its rounds everyone is talking about how they've setup hand sanitizer everywhere. Not just everyone, but educated people at grade schools and universities. There's a problem here: hand sanitizers don't kill viruses.
That's not the end of the story. It's not that hand sanitizers don't offer some protection against viruses.
In essence, it makes your hands very inhospitable to viruses. You put it on your hands and viruses simply don’t want to cling to it. So it does reduce the amount of a virus that can cling to your hand but it does not kill it. - Dr. Gupta
So if it does offer some protection, then how much? The American Society for Microbiology did a study a few years back on the efficacy of removing viruses with three different methods; water, liquid antibacterial soap, and hand sanitizer. The following sums up the results

WaterAntibacterial SoapSanitizer
96%88%46%
So if you want to effectively protect yourself against H1N1 simply rubbing your hands together under water is what you want. Only rely on sanitizer when neither soap nor water are available.
Unfortunately when I hear about fighting off H1N1 in the news, at work, or from my children's schools it seems that hand sanitizers are talked about a lot and frequent hand washing is not emphasized as much.