Public Service Announcement

Steve Benen highlights a sobering fact:

Remember to wash those hands: “Influenza is circulating unusually early this year with cases in all 50 states — nearly all the swine flu variety, government health officials said Friday.”

My coworkers and I got into a discussion about this a few days ago, after we learned that swine flu had struck the PAX convention – which two of our coworkers had just come back from. Another of our coworkers solemnly informed us that alcohol-based hand sanitizers aren’t effective against viruses, and when I challenged him, stated he’d learned that working in a lab.

His lab apparently didn’t know jack-diddly. I did some research, and what did I find but both the CDC and the WHO recommending alcohol-based sanitizers specifically for H1N1:

CDC guidelines: Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners* are also effective.

(Lest ye think that little * means “disclaimer,” here’s the relevant info from the link:

What if soap and water are not available and alcohol-based products are not allowed in my facility?

Though the scientific evidence is not as extensive as that on hand washing and alcohol-based sanitizers, other hand sanitizers that do not contain alcohol may be useful for killing flu germs on hands.)

WHO guidelines: clean hands thoroughly with soap and water, or cleanse them with an alcohol-based hand rub on a regular basis (especially if touching the mouth and nose, or surfaces that are potentially contaminated)

And, just for good measure, PalMD’s guidelines: Frequent use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers when soap and water isn’t available is a good idea, especially if you have to use your hands on frequently-touched objects such as doorknobs or handrails on the subway.

Three different science-based medicine sources, same answer at all. I’m convinced.

So load up with hand sanitizer for those times when you absolutely can’t avoid touching icky public door handles and such, and use it religiously. I want all my readers happy and healthy.