Sanitizer just part of battle against H1N1, other germs

Harry Sullivan
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TRURO - In a recent rant on the H1N1 virus by CBC's Rick Mercer, the acerbic comedian commented on how his body is now about 80 per cent hand sanitizer.
While the comment may have been slightly exaggerated, it is undoubtedly one that most people can relate to, given the number of hand sanitizer dispensers that have seemed to pop up almost everywhere, especially at hospitals.
And while those dispensers, or the handy-dandy, personal-sized containers have made it easier to help ward off the attack of the dreaded flu bacteria and other germs, it does not mean that hand washing is any less important, said Krista Wood, spokesperson for the Colchester East Hants Health Authority.
"It was never meant to be a replacement (for hand washing)," she said.
"It was meant to be a convenience and a substitute when you couldn't get soap and water.
"The hand sanitizer works on what's already there," not on what's to come. The fact you've used hand sanitizer a couple of times a day doesn't mean you've taken care of it because once it dries, it's done its job."
There are a wide variety of hand sanitizers available on the market but Lori Beth Totten, the health authority's infection control co-ordinator, said the most important consideration when selecting a brand is to check the ingredients.
"As long as it has the right concentration of alcohol, it's very effective in killing most bacteria and viruses," she said, adding that studies have shown "the brand doesn't matter as long as they have more than 60 per cent alcohol."
Hand sanitizers work by killing the microbial cells on our bodies through the use of isopropanol (rubbing alcohol). Studies have shown that sanitizers with 70 per cent alcohol content are more effective than at a 100 per cent level because the little bit of water included in the solution improves penetration into the skin.
And while she agrees that hand sanitizers work well as a temporary substitute while one is at the supermarket or some place else where soap and water are not available, the "number-one" method for trying to avoid the H1N1 virus, or even the seasonal flu bug, is hand washing.
"It kills the bacteria and viruses, whereas hand washing actually removes them from your hands," Totten said.
But whether one is using sanitizer or soap and water, Totten recommends taking the time (15-20 seconds) to properly scour your hands on the back, front and all around the fingers and fingernails.
When washing in the sink, the water should not be hot but only warm enough to allow you to keep your hands under the stream. You should also use a towel to shut
off the tap, turn off the bathroom light switch and to open the door
so your hands do not become
re-contaminated.

hsullivan@trurodaily.com


Organizations: CBC, Colchester East Hants Health Authority

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  • Daniel
    March 01, 2010 - 14:39

    Sanitizers further mutate the virus, making things more difficult. Any viruses not successfully killed by the sanitizer mutate and form a resistance. Excessive use of sanitizers is creating superviruses. Keep your hands and fingers away from your eyes, nose and mouth and wash with water that is as hot as you can tolerate.