Obsessively cleaning surfaces to get rid of COVID-19 germs is typically unnecessary “hygiene theater” and may go more harm than good by contributing to a false sense of security, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.
“CDC determined that the risk of surface transmission is low, and secondary to the primary routes of virus transmission through direct contact droplets and aerosols,” Vincent Hill, Chief of the Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch, told CNN during a CDC-sponsored telephone briefing.
Thorough disinfecting surfaces is appropriate when someone with coronavirus has been in the space during the past 24 hours, Hill said.
But obsessive cleaning can have dangerous consequences since it may have minimal impact on viral transmission and contributes to “hygiene theater,” Hill said, according to CNN.
“Putting on a show” to clean and disinfect “may be used to give people a sense of security that they are being protected from the virus, but this may be a false sense of security, if other prevention measures like wearing masks, physical distancing, and hand hygiene are not being consistently performed,” Hill said.
The briefing followed a CDC paper released two weeks ago that found the risk of contracting the virus from touching a contaminated surface is generally less than 1 in 10,000, “which means that each contact with a contaminated surface has less than a 1 in 10,000 chance of causing an infection,” the CDC paper says.
Essentially, the paper concludes most people get COVID-19 by breathing contaminated air vs. touching a contaminated surface.
“The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus,” the briefing paper says. “It is possible for people to be infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (fomites), but the risk is generally considered to be low.”
Handing washing is still recommended: “Case reports indicate that SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted between people by touching surfaces an ill person has recently coughed or sneezed on, and then directly touching the mouth, nose, or eyes. Hand hygiene is a barrier to fomite transmission and has been associated with lower risk of infection.”
The CDC has updated its COVID-related cleaning recommendations to suggest that a daily cleaning is fine, and common spaces and contact points should be cleaned and disinfected if someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 has been in the space during that past 24 hours.
Disinfecting also may also be appropriate when there is a high transmission of COVID-19 in your community, a low number of people wearing mask and/or infrequent hand hygiene.
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