To protect against sickness from the rapidly spreading norovirus, medical experts recommend frequent handwashing with soap and water instead of using hand sanitizer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which typically helps prevent many viruses, does not work well against the norovirus.
Vigorous washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is more effective because the friction helps kill more of the viral particles of norovirus. Norovirus is a common and highly contagious virus that causes vomiting, diarrhea and stomach upset, and has continued to spread in 2023 at elevated rates. The Healthy Handwashing Survey from Bradley Corporation found the vast majority (93 percent) of Americans believe handwashing is important to maintaining their overall health.
“Handwashing, using soap and warm water, is an easy and effective way to reduce the spread of disease-causing organisms like norovirus,” says medical microbiologist Michael P. McCann, Ph.D., professor and chair of biology, Saint Joseph's University. “Given the ease with which some of these organisms can be spread on solid surfaces, in food, and by other means, handwashing is something that everyone should do after activities like using the restroom."
Thanks to Covid, Americans are conditioned to wash their hands to protect themselves from germs that cause sickness. In fact, the Healthy Handwashing Survey found that 74 percent of Americans increase their handwashing habits to protect themselves from seasonal viruses.
Further, nearly two out of three Americans correctly believe their hands are less germy after washing with soap and water than after using hand sanitizer – a fact the CDC supports unequivocally.
While nearly 70 percent say they feel healthier and/or safer after washing their hands, handwashing frequency has fallen 30 percent to almost pre-Covid levels. In 2023, Americans washed their hands on average 7.3 times per day compared to 10.5 times per day in 2020.