Huntsville scientists think washing our faces may be as important as washing our hands to avoid the coronavirus.
Scientists at CFD Research, one of the companies located in the Hudson-Alpha Institute for Biotechnology, said late last week that contaminated faces may be a “missing link” in COVID-19’s transmission.
Researchers Andrzej Przekwas and Z.J. Chen first cite the ways we know respiratory viruses spread:
1) Fine particle aerosols generated during breathing and talking
2) large droplets generated by an infected person’s cough that land on people or surfaces such as clothes, utensils, and furniture. The virus can survive on those surfaces for some time.
3) Touching contaminated surfaces followed by hand-to-face contact
The relative importance of these transmission paths is full of unknown variables, but the researchers say the final step is either breathing in the virus from the air or potentially from our contaminated faces.
If there are no large or fine particles in the air, the researchers say “we may guess” the only source of the virus is the face contaminated by the hands. We typically touch our faces around 20 times each hour, they say, but fewer than half those touches are in the nose area. And we don’t know how the virus gets from the face into the lungs.
Through simulations and analysis, the two scientists conclude that “part of the face close to the nostrils could be a source” of the virus. “We believe that similar to hand washing, periodic cleaning of the facial area … could prevent viral self-infection,” the researchers say.
In other words, don’t just wash your hands. Wash your face, too, if possible.