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Only a few bottles of hand sanitizers remain on the shelves at a Walgreen Pharmacy on Feb. 28, 2020, in Miami Shores, Fla. (AP) Only a few bottles of hand sanitizers remain on the shelves at a Walgreen Pharmacy on Feb. 28, 2020, in Miami Shores, Fla. (AP)

Only a few bottles of hand sanitizers remain on the shelves at a Walgreen Pharmacy on Feb. 28, 2020, in Miami Shores, Fla. (AP)

Daniel Funke
By Daniel Funke March 3, 2020

Hand sanitizer can be used to prevent coronavirus infection

If Your Time is short

  • Health officials recommend the use of hand sanitizer to kill the coronavirus.

  • Although it is not effective against all viruses, hand sanitizers with high alcohol content have proven effective against human coronaviruses.

Health officials say one of the best ways Americans can prevent the spread of the 2019 coronavirus is to clean their hands. But should they use hand sanitizer?

One popular image on Facebook says no.

"Hand sanitizer is anti-bacterial. The coronavirus is a virus," reads the post, which is a screenshot of a March 1 tweet. "A bacteria and a virus is not (sic) the same. Wash your hands. Sanitizer will do nothing for the coronavirus."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

(Screenshot from Facebook)

Featured Fact-check

The post is wrong — health officials recommend the use of hand sanitizer to kill the coronavirus, known officially as COVID-19. The original Twitter user clarified that in a follow-up tweet, but the context was lost on Facebook.

On its list of ways to prevent coronavirus infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to "wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing." If soap and water are not accessible, the CDC recommends using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Although hand sanitizers are not effective against all viruses, the ones with high alcohol content have proven effective against some. Several studies indicate that alcohol-based sanitizers are effective against "enveloped viruses," which include human coronaviruses.

Since its outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December, the 2019 coronavirus has infected more than 88,000 people in 64 countries. In the United States, there have been 43 confirmed cases and six deaths, as of March 2, not including those repatriated to the country.

So continue washing your hands, and using hand sanitizer with a high alcohol content when you aren’t near soap and water. The post telling you hand sanitizer will "do nothing" to stop the coronavirus is wrong. We rate it False.

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Hand sanitizer can be used to prevent coronavirus infection

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