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. This can easily happen by touching one’s face with contaminated hands.

Hand hygiene (including alcohol-based hand rubs, soap and water, and correct glove use) is a basic component of personal and community hygiene and is an important way  to prevent the spread of infections while providing healthcare. Correct hand hygiene lowers the number of germs on the hands and limits the opportunity for spread, including for dangerous germs, like Ebola virus.

Proper hand hygiene methods are described below. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are the preferred method for cleaning your hands in most clinical situations. When hands are visibly soiled with blood or other body fluids, wash hands with soap and water.

  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when hands are not visibly soiled. 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 icon[PDF – 1 page] with plain soap (not containing antimicrobial compounds) and water.
  • Use mild (0.05%) chlorine solution pdf icon[PDF – 1 page] in settings where hand sanitizer and soap are not available. Repeated use of 0.05% chlorine solution can cause skin irritation.