3 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Scientific hand-washing advice to avoid infection

6:00 pm on 3 March 2020

As the Covid-19 coronavirus continues to spread, the advice from scientists is that the best way to stop it spreading is thorough hand washing.

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles, from University of Auckland's medical department, shows RNZ Checkpoint's Lisa Owen the best technique for preventing the spread of germs.

She says the main things to keep in mind are:

  • Get plenty of lather on your hands
  • Wash all over your hands, including the backs of your hands and up on your wrists
  • Wash for 20 seconds - enough time to sing 'Happy Birthday' twice
  • Dry your hands thoroughly to avoid picking up new germs
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Photo: 123rf

She says washing for 20 seconds is good and 30 seconds is even better, but washing for too much longer can be a bad idea as this will crack the skin, raising risk of infection further.

During a regular flu season or when facing the threat of an outbreak of another airborne virus or infection, it is important to wash and dry hands before eating or handling food, after using the toilet, after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children's noses or after caring for sick people.

People who suspect they have the Covid-19 coronavirus have been advised to call Healthline free on 0800 611 116, rather than show up at an emergency department or primary health provider.

See all RNZ's Covid-19 news