Washing your hands regularly is one of the first things that public health officials in Canada, the U.S. and the World Health Organization recommend in their online resources on preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“You can stay healthy and prevent the spread of infections by … washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds,” says the Canadian government’s website.
“Individuals can practice everyday prevention measures like frequent hand washing, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes,” says the Centers for Disease Control’s page on how to prevent COVID-19 spread in communities.
In outlining “basic” measures in protecting oneself against the new virus, the WHO’s first tip is to “wash your hands frequently.”
So what exactly is it about handwashing that’s so effective?
A tweet by one biophysicist in the U.S. went viral recently when it pointed out the simple mechanics behind handwashing and its effect on a virus like the novel coronavirus.
Emphasizing that she is not a health-care worker and not dispensing health-care advice, Karen Fleming from Johns Hopkins University said she didn’t expect her short Twitter thread to go viral.
As she explained in an email to Global News on Sunday night, she and her co-workers were “chatting about the new virus last week and realized that it was ‘enveloped.’”
“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.
That outer covering — a membrane bilayer — is “just grease.”
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