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Last Updated : Jul 06, 2020 08:41 PM IST

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While the infectious COVID-19 disease began as an outbreak, it soon achieved the status of a pandemic with over 10.5 million recorded cases worldwide. But with the absence of a viable cure or vaccine, one consumer product became the first frontline warrior in the battle waged against invisible pathogens: soap. Hand washing with soap quickly became one of the cheapest and most effective measures to protect oneself and others against coronavirus.

 

Why hand washing is critical

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Global organisations WHO and UNICEF have reiterated that hands play a crucial role in the transmission of COVID-19, as it primarily spreads through droplet and contact. This means, if you touch an infected person and/or contaminated objects or surfaces, your hands can aid in spreading the virus to others when you come in contact with them. There is a significant risk of getting infected by touching surfaces, such as desks or doorknobs, where those droplets may have settled.

 

In light of this, it is particularly alarming to note that 65 out of 100 Indians don’t use soap to wash hands before a meal. There are only 35.8 percent households in India who practise hand washing with soap before meals, while 60 percent households wash hands only with water. What’s even worse is that according to the National Sample Survey’s 76th round report, almost 26 percent of people in India do not wash their hands with soap after defecation.

 

Evidence from both, the SARS and COVID-19 epidemics, has demonstrated that hand hygiene is very important in helping us protect ourselves from getting infected and spreading it further. As per the Harvard Gazette, a 2006 study had uncovered that hand washing can cut the risk of respiratory infection by 16 percent, while a 2008 study showed a 21 percent reduction.

 

How soap can kill viruses

Soap has always been seen as a humble cleaning agent, but when it comes to infections it can be a destructive device. Even a drop of diluted soap water can reduce the occurrence of bacteria and viruses. In some instances, water can rinse off dirt without the intervention of soap, but bacteria and viruses are so tiny that their sticky nanoparticles lodge themselves in the crevices of our hands, which only soap can eliminate.

 

Here’s how UNESCO explains the chemistry of soap and how it can prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It is recommended to scrub the wrists, palms and backs of your hands, and the spaces in-between your fingers for 20 seconds. This thorough scrubbing will allow the pin-shaped molecules to penetrate the bacteria and pathogens (including coronaviruses) that protect themselves with an oily lipid membrane. When you wash
First Published on Jul 6, 2020 08:31 pm

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