TWiV 586: Coronavirus update: wash your hands

February 9, 2020

In this week’s coverage of the coronavirus epidemic, the TWiV team discusses the fatality rate, China’s initial reaction to the outbreak, conspiracy theories, how long the virus remains infectious on surfaces, and evidence for virus in the intestinal tract.

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello, Dickson Despommier, Alan Dove, Rich Condit, and Brianne Barker

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Intro music is by Ronald Jenkees.

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13 comments on “TWiV 586: Coronavirus update: wash your hands

  1. Matt Dubuc Feb 9, 2020

    Thanks for the superior podcast, which is warmly appreciated.

    It is a glorious, pristine morning in these verdant Northern California foothills, with a temperature of 52 degrees.

    I note a continued emphasis on handwashing recommendations for the general public, including your New York Times article discussion last week describing its effectiveness during the Chinese SARS outbreak in public schools there.

    I propose the following:

    Let’s supplement the recommendation for diligent handwashing to include facewashing as well, namely careful cleansing of the nostrils, lips, tear ducts, and ear canals, which are the routes through which most infectious agents enter thebody.

    Our repeated emphasis on handwashing overlooks the fact pathogens rarely enter the body through cuts on the hands, but rather make us sick after entry through the mucous membranes of the face.

    Such a recommendation for facewashing should include specific language that it must always be preceded by diligent handwashing to reduce the risk of filthy hands washing the face making matters worse.

    However, if the hands are properly cleaned, facewashing offers a low-cost, non-trivial path to improved outcomes during outbreaks.

    Facewashing also offers a collateral benefit of mitigating public panic during outbreaks, of particular importance in this age of social media.

    Anecdotally, I have used this approach of careful facewashing after diligent handwashing following episodes of extreme exposure to very good effect over the last seven years. In contexts where where most fellow office members and friends are hobbled by various bugs, I get sick less frequently, and when I do get sick, it is less severe.

    In summary, facewashing with clean hands is an important new tool in public health.

    Thanks again for setting the gold standard in medical podcasts and I will become a Patreon subscriber later this week.

  2. Dear Twiv There is now a panic over Coronavirus in Solano County, CA at the Travis Air Force Base area. The Question here is how does the CDC not spark conspiracy theories to the residents here in Solano County, CA. There are 5 people reported with symptoms but the panic has escalated in area hospitals and all over Northern California please straighten these allegations out.


    Dear Twiv there is also a Measles Scare in Solano County, CA its in the same county as the largest Coronavirus scare in the United States. So Far the CDC is responding to the Coronavirus one.

  4. Did you even read the “debunked” study?

    Patient 3 and 4 had no contact with the Chinese woman and Patient 3 only had contact with the first infected German patient while he was asymptomatic.

  5. Glenn McLaughlin Feb 10, 2020

    Love these podcasts. As a layperson with zero tolerance for 2nd hand spinning of data and “facts” by the msm, this hour (+ or -) is invaluable as are the notes and links supplied for me to peruse on my own.
    Thanks for addressing the G.I. complications in this episode.
    My question is :
    Why are masks NOT mentioned in the “Safe Practice” guidelines or endorsed by you (panel) when it seems that droplets are the primary source of transmission, when hand washing and prudent hygene are being utilized ?
    I get that the virus particles themselves can easily pass through the mask, but just considering a benefit on a particle to pfu ratio basis, it seems that restricting propagation to any degree would be beneficial… if not in this case, then why not?
    Thanks in advance,

  6. Glenn McLaughlin Feb 11, 2020

    It begins….

    I hope the weight of the TWIV panel has some sway in the world health corona-virus jetstream….or at least here in the US.

  7. Heverton Feb 12, 2020

    Thanks again for the episode! However I couldn’t handle it till the end, as that whistling background noise was driving me crazy.

  8. Yukie Feb 12, 2020

    Hello, my hero/heroine scientists!

    I am Yukie writing from Japan and was also one of the first writers to TWiN if you remember 🙂 I am a freelance translator mainly translating adverse drug event/reaction reports from Japanese to English for foreign pharmaceutical companies.

    Thank you very much for keeping me updated on COVID-19 (what do you all think about the name, by the way?).
    In Japan, face masks are vanished from drug stores and are hard to find.
    Demand>Supply!!!!!. But, I can just calmly wash my hands frequently because I am your listener!
    The latest news (as of 12-Feb-2020) talked about a quarantine officer on the cruise ship “Diamond Princess” tested positive for COVID-19. I advertised TWiV with “#DiamondPricess” on twitter. I hope things are going to calm down without any repercussions on the Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics!

    Looking forward to the next episode!

    Best regards,