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Hand-washing: Your best bet to ward off the flu

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An article in the New York Times by Tara Parker-Pope analyzes several recent hand-washing studies and concludes that soap and water, or alcohol-based hand sanitizing gels, are your best bets to stave off the flu.

"It sounds so simple as to be innocuous, a throwaway line in public-health warnings about swine flu. But one of the most powerful weapons against the new H1N1 virus is summed up in a three-word phrase you first heard from your mother: wash your hands.

A host of recent studies have highlighted the importance and the scientific underpinning of this most basic hygiene measure. One of the most graphic was done at the University of California, Berkeley, where researchers focused video cameras on 10 college students as they read and typed on their laptops.

The eyes appear to be a particularly vulnerable port of entry for viral infections, said Mark Nicas, a professor of environmental health sciences at Berkeley. Using mathematical models, Dr. Nicas and colleagues estimated that in homes, schools and dorms, hand-to-face contact appears to account for about one-third of the risk of flu infection, according to a report this month in the journal Risk Analysis.

Hand-to-face contact has a surprising impact on health. Germs can enter the body through breaks in the skin or through the membranes of the eyes, mouth and nose."
 
 

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