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Recommended hand hygiene steps to prevent the spread of viruses
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At the end of December 2019, the World Health Organization was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. This virus was identified as a new Coronavirus called COVID-19 (previously referred to as 2019-nCOV), which is a family of viruses that include the common cold, as well as SARS and MERS viruses.
By the end of January, it was reported that more than 7,000 people had been sickened by the virus and that although most of these cases were in China, cases had also been confirmed in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, the United States, France, Australia, Malaysia, Nepal, Germany, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Finland and the United Kingdom.
Signs indicate that this potentially fatal virus is spreading, with the World Health Organization declaring the Coronavirus a global public health emergency.
Scientists around the world are currently looking into the transmissibility and severity of the 2019-nCoV, but until we know more, there are hygiene behaviours that we can and should adopt that are proven to be effective against the spread of viruses.
It is important to note that how a virus can spread from person to person will vary greatly; sustained person-to-person spread in the community has been reported in China and occasionally internationally. As this is an evolving situation, there is still more to learn and we will update this page as more information is uncovered. Similar to other respiratory viruses, it is believed that transmission occurs via droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes. These droplets land on surfaces and are picked up on the hands of others and spread further. People catch the virus when they touch their infected hands to their mouth, nose or eyes.
For confirmed COVID-19 infections, reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, but have included: fever, cough and shortness of breath. It is reported that symptoms could appear as long as 14 days after exposure.
There are no current special precautions that have officially been advised, however, practicing regular good hand hygiene using soap and water, and the use of an alcohol-based hand rub solution (e.g. hand sanitiser) is beneficial in helping prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. This is of particular importance when travelling or working in heavily populated areas such as airports, schools, hospitals etc. If you work in such an environment, it may be prudent to enhance existing hygiene control arrangements. We also suggest using signage to increase the awareness of handwashing at this time - for example posters at critical areas; washrooms, kitchen and eating spaces; implement additional hand sanitiser stations; and increase washroom checks to ensure that hand soap and hand drying facilities are maintained and always available.
Please note that there is no currently approved vaccine against 2019-nCoV, additionally, viral testing with this novel Coronavirus against commercially available products has not yet been carried out due to the availability of the virus to test against.
We recommend that you check with your national authorities for travel advice on whether to travel to a country affected by COVID-19 outbreak and other health information, including access to healthcare for reasons other than COVID-19.
As recommended by WHO, good hand hygiene practice is as follows:
Further information will be provided through regular updates to this page, so please check back or bookmark this page. Alternatively, you can keep up-to-date with country-specific guidance and the current recommendations from dedicated websites for the WHO and the CDC.
Until such time that COVID-19 is scientifically understood, you may wish to download our leaflet on Recommended hand hygiene steps to prevent the spread of viruses.