Harrisburg, PA – As COVID-19 and flu remain threats in our communities, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine shared that regular hand washing is one of the most important steps we can take to get rid of germs and keep them from spreading to ultimately protect ourselves and others from getting sick or dying.
“Regular handwashing can truly save lives,” Dr. Levine said. “Whether you are at home, at work, or out in the community, you should wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing ‘happy birthday’ twice, so you can protect yourself and your family. As a pediatrician, I echo the importance of teaching children to wash their hands early and often to ensure they do not run the risk of getting sick or spreading germs to others.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible. If soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
When washing, lather soap on your hands, rub your hands together, get the soap between your fingers, and clean underneath your nails to ensure you reach any germs that may be hiding.
To prevent the spread of germs during the COVID-19 pandemic and flu season, you should wash your hands before and after:
- Touching your eyes, nose, or mouth;
- Touching your mask;
- Eating or cooking;
- Entering and leaving any public place; and
- Touching an item, animal or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens.
By washing your hands, an individual can prevent the spread of diarrheal and respiratory infections from one person to the next. The CDC shares that handwashing can prevent about 30 percent of diarrhea-related sicknesses and about 20 percent of respiratory infections.
When individuals wash their hands, they also defeat the likelihood of developing antibiotic resistance and avoid overusing antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance happens when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. That means the germs are not killed and continue to grow, which is sometimes impossible to treat and may result in extended hospital stays, doctor visits and costly and toxic alternatives.
“Please remember, we are in this together and when Pennsylvanians come together and unite against COVID-19, we can fight this virus,” Dr. Levine said. “In addition to hand washing, we continue to advocate for tips and tools to help Pennsylvanians stay safe and healthy, which now includes the COVID Alert PA app for individuals 13 and older. So, download the app, practice social distancing, get your flu shot, wear a mask, avoid large gatherings, and answer the call if a public health professional or contact tracer calls you.”
The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
- Clean surfaces frequently.
- Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
- If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.
- Download the COVID Alert PA app and make your phone part of the fight. The free app can be found in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store by searching for “covid alert pa”.