Common Cold

Reduce the presence of influenza A

 Wash your hands.

I’m reposting this entry because it seem relevant to the swine flu epidemic.

First, the details.

  • 20 vaccinated, antibody-positive healthcare workers had their hands contaminated with live human influenza A virus (H1N1; A/New Caledonia/20/99).
  • They were assigned to 1 of 5 hand hygiene protocols
    • No hand hygiene (control)
    • Soap and water hand washing
    • 1 of 3 alcohol-based hand rubs (61.5% ethanol gel, 70% ethanol + 0.5% chlorhexidine solution, or 70% isopropanol + 0.5% chlorhexidine solution).
  • Viral culture and reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (useful to measure small amounts of DNA and RNA) were used to measure changes in the flu virus.

And, the results.

  • There was an immediate reduction in the presence of the flu virus after brief air-drying in 14 of 20 healthcare workers.
  • 6 of 20 had no viable flu virus on their hands
  • Soap and water hand washing was statistically superior to all 3 alcohol‐based hand rubs, although the actual difference was small.
  • There was minimal reduction in the virus in the absence of hand hygiene.

The bottom line?
Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol based cleaner.

The authors concluded, “Although person-to-person transmission of influenza virus is due primarily to aerosol spread, transmission on the hands of patients and their caregivers is also potentially important.”

“Appropriate hand hygiene may be an important public health initiative to reduce pandemic and avian influenza transmission.”

2/24/09 19:19 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.