Not long ago, a rubber stamp was affixed to the idea that you can stop the spread of viruses simply by washing your hands regularly. Viral infections are a big threat to humanity, making them fodder for Hollywood in such films as the “Contagion.” Researchers have found that we could help stop the spread of a virus just by soaping up and running the tap.
The World Health Organization closely tracks each possible virus outbreak around the globe. The world has already suffered several epidemics and pandemics in the past and the lingering threat keeps the world’s scientists and health officials on their toes.
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Beyond that, there are the less severe, minor infections. Each year brings a new flu season and a large number of people get sick for several days. For children, older adults and anyone with a compromised immune system, the yearly flu can be quite dangerous. In fact, when the government promotes the need to get a flu shot, it is these individuals they are trying to protect.
So how do we stop the spread of a virus? Whether a serious strain, the annual flu bug, or something new and mysterious such as SARS comes to our community one day, what is the ideal course of action? One big study came a few years back in the renowned “British Medical Journal” and our concept of hand washing has never been the same.
The health breakthrough said the best prevention is amazingly simple. It suggests that just throwing up physical barriers to a virus will help halt its progress better than taking drugs. Those barriers include regular hand washing, and people exposed to viruses wearing masks, gowns and gloves.
The answer came after searching more than 50 studies in the past. A snapshot of all the evidence to date shows that vaccines and antivirals won’t be effective in halting a serious strain of influenza. Instead, keeping things as clean as possible with measures as simple as washing one’s hands constantly can do a better job.
The past studies had looked at the transmission of respiratory viruses and how people tried to prevent them from spreading animal-to-person and person-to-person. Together, the picture was clear: hand washing and wearing masks, gowns, and gloves were each effective in preventing the spread of the flu. When used together, the level of effectiveness rose.
This study came on the heels of another that found that washing with soap and water is a simple way to halt a virus’ spread. And that regular soap is a far better bet than antibacterial soap.