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Handwashing

Ebola virus spreads through direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. The virus from blood and body fluids can enter the body through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth. In most cases, this happens by touching the face with contaminated hands.

Hand hygiene is the most effective way to prevent the spread of dangerous germs, like Ebola virus. Correct hand hygiene lowers the number of germs on the hands and limits the opportunity for spread.

Proper hand hygiene methods are described below.

  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when hands are not visibly dirty. These products usually contain 60-95% ethanol or isopropanol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer should not be used when hands are visibly soiled with dirt, blood, or other body fluids.
  • Use soap and water when hands are visibly soiled with dirt, blood, or other body fluids and as an alternative to alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Antimicrobial soaps are not proven to offer benefits over washing hands [PDF – 1 page] with plain soap (not containing antimicrobial compounds) and water.
  • Use mild (0.05%) chlorine solution [PDF – 1 page] in settings where hand sanitizer and soap are not available. Repeated use of 0.05% chlorine solution may cause skin irritation.
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