By MINDY FACIANE | Public Information Officer, Louisiana Department of Health
Life in Louisiana has changed dramatically over the past few weeks as COVID-19, more commonly called coronavirus, entered our state. Experts are continuing to learn more about this highly contagious virus — how it spreads, how it can be treated and, eventually how to create a vaccine to protect against it.
What we know right now is COVID-19 can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth when a person infected with the disease coughs or exhales. These droplets can land on objects or surfaces, like a cellphone, and can then be transmitted from a surface when a person touches it and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also become infected if they breathe in the droplets from a person who has COVID-19. This is why it’s important to stay at least 6 feet away from an infected person — an act of social distancing.
It’s also an enormously important reason for everyone to be washing their hands properly, thoroughly and frequently. You could be exposed to the virus without even knowing it — and, thereby, unknowingly spreading it as well.
Pandemic aside, good hand washing is something we should practice regularly:
- Before, during and after preparing food,
- Before eating food,
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick,
- Before and after treating a cut or wound,
- After using the toilet,
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet,
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing,
- After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste,
- After handling pet food or pet treats, and
- After touching garbage.
Washing your hands only takes 20 seconds and helps prevent the spread of germs like the coronavirus from person to person, our communities and our state. It just takes these five simple steps from the CDC:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Most of the time you should choose soap and water first when it comes to cleaning your hands, but if soap and water simply aren’t available then you can turn to hand sanitizers. These handy gels can cut down on germs significantly but they don’t get rid of all kinds of germs.
When choosing a hand sanitizer, check the label to make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol. (Keep it out of reach of children, because it may cause alcohol poisoning if too much is ingested.) To use, apply to the palm of one hand and rub the gel all over the surfaces of your fingers and hands until dry.
Whether it’s good old soap and water or the standby hand sanitizer, the power to help keep coronavirus at bay is literally in your hands.