Panic over last year’s swine flu pandemic led to the installation of millions of alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers in places like grocery store checkout lines, restaurants and schools. Many people also began carrying with them travel-size hand sanitizers for additional protection from germs. But a new study out of the University of Virginia (UV) has found that hand sanitizers do practically nothing to prevent the transmission of viruses like influenza and rhinovirus, a major cause of the common cold.
Dr. Ronald B. Turner and his colleagues from UV evaluated 212 volunteers as part of their study, 116 of which were instructed to carry with them an “enhanced antiviral activity” hand sanitizer to be used every three hours throughout the day. The other 96 volunteers simply lived their routine lives with no interventions.
For ten weeks, researchers collected periodic samples from both groups to test the presence of influenza and rhinovirus. They also collected samples whenever any volunteer indicated flu or cold symptoms. At the end of the ten-week period, the hand sanitizer group had only slightly less cold and flu cases than did the control group. According to researchers, the difference was statistically insignificant.
“We all thought if you used hand disinfectants, it would have an impact,” Dr. Turner told The Daily Progress.
Funded by Dial Corp., a major manufacturer of hand soaps and hand sanitizers, the study is sure to shock many Americans who have come to rely on hand sanitizers as perceived protection against viral infections. But it also points to the fact that viral infections might be more of a threat from the air than they are from hand contact, which could change the way experts approach prevention strategies.
New reports show that the chemicals used in these products are more harmful than the bugs they are designed to kill. Research also shows that washing with plain soap and water is just as effective.
Drs. Dennis, Fern and Terri