When did you last wash your hands?

John Oliver has some sensible advice.

As for my handwashing…all day long. I work with students every day all day (who I avoid touching, obviously), so I tend to wash my hands thoroughly about once an hour, or before and after I go to class. Not just for coronavirus, but because they’re filthy animals and disease vectors for all kinds of crap…and I have the potential to transfer diseases to a diverse lot of people who wouldn’t normally hang out together but are forced into my classrooms for those sweet, sweet credits.

Spiders are far less infectious than other humans, you know.


  1. stroppy says

    Just out of curiosity, is microbiology a required course for your basic bio undergrads?

  2. says

    “Not just for coronavirus, but because they’re filthy animals and disease vectors for all kinds of crap”
    No coincidence the first transmission here in Oregon happened to a teacher. At least by the time they’re in college they know how to wash their hands. Primary school teachers have it way worse.
    The thing that’s been bugging me lately is the run on hand sanitizer. Does hand sanitizer even work on viruses? Does hand sanitizer even work on THIS virus? Purell is advertised to kill 99.99% of common “germs”. What’s in that 0.01%? Some real nasty shit and mostly viruses. Hepatitis, herpes, norovirus, influenza. “Germs” is a nebulous term in medicine. Purell kills almost all pathogenic bacteria, but it’s active ingredients aren’t very effective against against viruses.
    It’s basically all alcohol. To kill viruses, your best bet is strong oxidizers. Hydrogen peroxide, Chlorine, Ammonia. You really don’t want to be rubbing those on your hands. So washing your hands vigorously and thoroughly is your best defense.

  3. =8)-DX says

    @Ray Ceeya AFAIK regular soap will dissolve the viral envelope, which is why they recommend waiting for a bit with your hands soaped up before rinsing them.

  4. robert79 says

    I don’t touch my students, obviously, I do occasionally touch their keyboards…

    Student: My code doesn’t compile, can you help me?
    Me: You’re missing a ‘)’ three ‘)’ left on the second term on line 40.
    Student: Huh, where?
    Me: there (touch screen)
    Student: Messes around with with something 1cm above where I touched screen, adds 20 more typos to his code.
    Me: ARRRRGGGGH, no just let me…(touch keyboard)

    Over the years I suspect I’ve developed an immunity for anything students can transmit through their keyboards (this includes their emails.)

  5. tardigrada says

    @Ray Ceeya. It depends on the hand sanitizer but most should work. 62-73 (?) % ethanol is most effective against corona viruses and can be used to disinfect surfaces. In absence of the possibility to wash your hands (public transport etc), it can be used for hand disinfection too. Adding some other things makes it more effective (such as a few % isopropanol) but most of those things you don’t want on your hands.

  6. brucej says


    in my day job (IT user support is one of 3,476 hats I wear) I’m also touching lots of folks’ keyboards…“no, the backslash up there..” and “No not that one, the forward slash down there!” are probably phrases i could recite if I was in a coma…(I’ve pretty much given up trying to teach the difference between forward and back slash…it’s now ‘The one next to the question mark’ and ‘The one above the return key’. )

    Hands get washed many times a day, plus I have a container of these on my desk: https://www.medicalsupplydepot.com/Skin-Care-Products-1/Preps-Disinfectants-2/Sani-HandsInstant-Hand-Sanitizing-Wipes.html?itemNSId=97366&utm_source=google_ads&utm_campaign=2018719626&utm_content=77200767531&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI1rX56dT85wIVCNRkCh1lGAWsEAQYBCABEgIdrPD_BwE

    My wife discovered them in her orthopedic surgeon’s office when she broke her ankle and has sworn by them ever since.

  7. garnetstar says

    I just used to get sick every semester: right around the first midterm exam, when all students had collectively been near me or in my office, etc., I’d just get a nonspecific viral illness.

    Now I just keep spray bottles of 91% rubbing alcohol (isopropanol) in my bag, on my desks, etc., and spray or wipe down my hands and surfaces and keyboards. Seems to work OK. This also makes you wash your hands because isopropanol doesn’t feel good on them, so you have to wash them afterwards.

    I also max out on vaccines: I wheedled measles and tetanus boosters out of my insurance company, I think I got a pertussis one (?), a flu shot before every fall semester starts, anything I can scavenge up. I’d take a diptheria booster or a yellow fever shot, anything, if I could get one. I’m trying to see how early I can get a pneumonia vaccine. My students are always walking up to me saying “I’ve been diagnosed with pertussis” while I back away.

    And, anything their hands have touched on my desk gets the isopropanol too.

  8. magistramarla says

    I have autoimmune issues, which means that my immune system is on overdrive. My husband calls it my Klingon immune system. When I was teaching in a high school, those kids would often come up to my desk sniffing and snorting, to hand in their papers. Even so, I never once got sick from that! My Klingon immune system kept me well during those years.
    My husband usually gets sick at least once a year, and I usually escape it. However, this winter I managed to come down with a miserable virus just a few days after having hand surgery. I guess even a Klingon gets sick occasionally!
    We are taking this new virus seriously. Our daughter, a neuroscientist who works at the FDA, is very worried. At her urging, we have stocked up on medications and pantry items. My husband had to do some training at work about working from home in case it becomes necessary.
    So we all need to take it seriously, get prepared and stay informed.