Background: Hand hygiene may mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in community settings; however, empirical evidence is limited. Given reports of similar transmission mechanisms for COVID-19 and seasonal coronaviruses, we investigated whether hand hygiene impacted the risk of acquiring seasonal coronavirus infections. Methods: Data were drawn from three successive winter cohorts (2006-2009) of the England-wide Flu Watch study. Participants (n =1633) provided baseline estimates of hand hygiene behaviour. Coronavirus infections were identified from nasal swabs using RT-PCR. Poisson mixed models estimated the effect of hand hygiene on personal risk of coronavirus illness, both unadjusted and adjusted for confounding by age and healthcare worker status. Results: Moderate-frequency handwashing (6-10 times per day) incidence rate ratio (aIRR) =0.64, p=0.04). There was no evidence for a dose-response effect of handwashing, with results for higher levels of hand hygiene (>10 times per day) not significant (aIRR =0.83, Conclusions: This is the first empirical evidence that regular handwashing can reduce personal risk of acquiring seasonal support clear public health context of the current COVID-19 pandemic
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Grant information: The Flu Watch study received funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust (G0600511, G0800767 and MC_U122785833). S.B. is supported by an MRC doctoral studentship (MR/N013867/1). The funders were not actively involved in the design, delivery, or analysis of this research. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily of the MRC or the Wellcome Trust. AH is an NIHR Senior Investigator. The views expressed in this Article are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR, or the Department of Health and Social Care.
© 2020. Beale S et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited
- hand washing
- respiratory hygiene
- respiratory infection