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Does Hand Sanitizer Protect You From Coronavirus? What About Washing Your Hands?

Whether you have symptoms or not, hand sanitizers prevent the spread of viral infections.

What’s the best way to avoid the new coronavirus?

It’s a question on the world’s mind as a novel strain of coronavirus — a virus family that includes past outbreaks such as SARS and MERS — has broken out in Wuhan, China, and cases continue to be confirmed around the world.

Canada is reporting one confirmed case of the virus, one presumed and over a dozen other people are being tested for signs of it. As face masks fly off the shelves across Canada, demand for alcohol-based hand sanitizers has also gone up from people trying to avoid the infectious virus.

The fact of that matter is that the Wuhan coronavirus is a respiratory virus not unlike the common cold and flu. A lot of the same techniques you can employ to avoid the flu apply to keeping yourself safe from coronavirus — wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick, talk to your doctor. And while there are only two presumed cases of coronavirus in Canada, hundreds of thousands of people catch the flu every year — the ways to avoid them are basically the same.

So what really is the best way to prevent the spread of coronavirus and other viral infections?

Does hand sanitizer prevent the spread of coronavirus?

Yes. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not only effective at preventing the transmission of coronavirus, but the transmission of viral infections in general. According to Public Health Canada, they need to have around 60 or 70 per cent alcohol content, which is the case for most over-the counter hand sanitizers.

According to University of Toronto professor James Scott, this percentage is actually even more effective than 100 per cent rubbing alcohol, because the little bit of water improves the way the alcohol penetrates and kills viruses outer coatings.

WATCH: Health tips for air travel as flu and coronavirus worries rise. Story continues below.

Hand sanitizer doesn’t replace hand-washing when it comes to actual dirt, but in terms of viral or bacterial illnesses it is an excellent way to prevent the spread of disease.

What about washing your hands?

Washing your hands properly can also be a great way to avoid the transmission of viral infection such as the coronavirus. But you have to do it properly.

According to Ontario Public Health, this means lathering for at least 15 seconds with a proper anti-bacterial hand soap, getting all up in the nooks and crannies and rinsing properly.

More importantly though, is ensuring to wash your hands at the appropriate times — after you cough or sneeze, before you touch your face or eat. The same stuff you learned in grade school still applies as an adult!

What else can you do?

Avoid touching your face, mouth or nose without washing your hands afterwards. If you’re feeling sick, stay home to get better and not spread it to anyone else. Even if you don’t have coronavirus, it still is the best way to keep yourself and the people around you healthy. And if your symptoms do get worse, or you don’t get better for an extended period of time, take appropriate precautions and contact your health-care provider.

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