HomeMedicineStopping the Spread of Coronaviruses: Is Handwashing Enough?

Stopping the Spread of Coronaviruses: Is Handwashing Enough?

Increasing handwashing at the 10 most influential airports can help in stopping the spread of coronavirus by up to 37%.² The coronavirus and other flu-type viruses are often transmitted through bodily fluids and physical contact between humans.

Global virus transmission is further strengthened and accelerated through air travel due to the confined spaces. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have emphasized the importance of handwashing as the most efficient and cost-effective way to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Ideas to stop the spread of coronaviruses

In a recent study, researchers investigated the most effective handwashing strategy to reduce global disease transmission. World air-traffic data was collected from the 2017 Official Airline Guide, then applied in statistical models and computer simulations. The researchers organized their results to explore four ‘what-if’ scenarios during flu-type epidemics.

Scenario One: What if there was an increase in consistent handwashing at all airports?

Scenario Two: What if there was an increase in consistent handwashing only at the source of the disease?

Scenario Three: What if there was an increase in consistent handwashing at the 10 most influential airports of the world air-transportation network?

Scenario Four: What if there was an increase in consistent handwashing at the 10 most influential airports for each source of the disease?

Scenario three was chosen as the most effective and least costly. The third scenario involved implementing a handwashing strategy at the 10 most influential airports. The researchers believe that this strategy can be achieved with an increase in handwashing facilities and public awareness.

Although scenario one was ideal, it was a costly strategy and deemed unrealistic. Scenarios two and four also simulated reduced global disease transmission, however, the results were not as significant as scenario three.


This study was limited by the assumptions of handwashing behavior. The researchers assumed that their study population would all wash their hands the same way. However, handwashing differs among individuals due to societies and cultures. The researchers believe that further studies on personal handwashing habits could provide more insight.

The researchers have called for further research on policy design and strategy implementation on handwashing during air travel. Proper handwashing is an effective preventative solution to reduce disease transmission. The researchers believe that their study can be followed up by improvements in handwashing facilities and public service announcements to enhance handwashing behaviors.

Written by Manuel Bangsil, PharmD, MBA, BCMAS


  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Canada’s response – Canada.ca. Retrieved 18 February 2020, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/canadas-reponse.html
  2. Preve, M. (2020). Study shows increased hand hygiene at top 10 airports can reduce spread of coronavirus by 37 percent. Retrieved 15 February 2020, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-02/sfra-ssi021220.php
  3. Nicolaides, C., Avraam, D., Cueto‐Felgueroso, L., González, M., & Juanes, R. (2019). Hand‐hygiene mitigation strategies against global disease spreading through the air transportation network. Risk Analysis. doi: 10.1111/risa.13438


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