With winter upon us, you’ve likely already been exposed to those hand sanitizer pushers. You know, the office coworkers or human resource personnel that memo you to death with the value of hand sanitizers. For those of us who don’t buy into the hand sanitizer benefits push, today should serve as validation. A new Japanese study says that hand sanitizer is a big fail when it faces off with influenza A virus.
Many people believe that if they simply rub their hands with some ethanol-based hand sanitizer, it kills off the flu virus. But Researchers from Kyoto Profectural University of Medicine have proven this to be untrue. According to their research, it took a full four-minute hand rub down of hand sanitizer to kill off the flu virus. I believe it is safe to assume that no one’s rubbing their hands together with hand sanitizer anywhere near four minutes.
Influenza A virus sputum, which is it’s texture of saliva and mucus that’s typically the cause of coughing and congestion in the infected, builds a guard against the ethanol and slows down the sanitizer from reaching the flu virus. Think of influenza A virus sputum as a big thick and tall concrete wall. You can break down a wall, but it takes time. In the case of flu virus sputum, that time is four long minutes.
The “mucus” aspect may introduce a rather unrealistic sounding scenario in terms of how the flu spreads. But when you simplify things, it’s not so unrealistic. When people cough on their hands, that’s sputum. That’s the contact you make when you shake a hand, of high five, which typically spreads the illness.
“The physical properties of mucus protect the virus from inactivation,” says physician and molecular gastroenterologist Dr. Ryohei Hirose in a release by the American Society for Microbiology. “Until the mucus has completely dried, infectious IAV can remain on the hands and fingers, even after appropriate antiseptic hand rubbing.”
The situation is worsened when you consider typical flu prevention behavior, which involves passing by a hand sanitizer and quickly rubbing some in following a handshake, or some other contact. That’s doing nothing, at least according to this study.
Worse more, it might be making the flu seasons worse, given that people participate in more risky behavior under a false sense of security. Rather than performing a full, thorough hand wash, they spritze hand sanitizer and quickly wipe in and go about their day. But in the latter case, they continue carrying the flu virus along for the ride. At some point, they touch their mouth or eat, and worse, shake another’s hand.
Hand Sanitizer Flu Virus Study Logistics
The study’s researchers began by conducting an isolated study into the flu virus mucus, or what we referred to earlier as “the wall.” They wanted to determine the amount of time that it took ethanol to pass through the mucus.
Following that, they used mucus from those diagnosed with influenza A virus and applied it to hands and repeated the testing. This testing allowed for hands to wipe in the hand sanitizer. At the two minute mark, they found the flu virus to be alive and well. At the four-minute mark, it was a dead virus.
Prior studies failed because it tested dried mucus samples, not wet samples.
The CDC recommends using hand sanitizer for 15 to 30 seconds for “optimal hand hygiene.” It seems that such a recommendation is now archaic.
Some people opt to make their own hand sanitizer as a way to control ingredients and potency.
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.
Please visit the CDC website for the most up-to-date COVID-19 information.
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