Should an FDA warning affect your use of hand sanitizer?

The Food and Drug Administration told the maker of Purell last month that it could not claim its product prevents the flu and other viral illnesses, raising new questions about hand sanitizer use.

In a letter to GOJO Industries, the FDA said it “is currently not aware of any adequate and well-controlled studies demonstrating that killing or decreasing the number of bacteria or viruses on the skin by a certain magnitude produces a corresponding clinical reduction in infection or disease caused by such bacteria or virus.”

Though the company may be limited in the claims it can make, hand sanitizers that have at least 60% alcohol content are still believed to be an important line of defense against getting sick, according to Dr. Julie Fischer, an associate research professor of microbiology and immunology at Georgetown University.

The correct use of hand sanitizer involves applying enough of it and rubbing your hands for 15 seconds, “because the rubbing together actually helps destroy and remove those organisms as well,” Fischer said.

Still, “it’s preferred that you use soap and water and wash your hands correctly if you have time,” she said, which means rubbing hands together for at least 20 seconds while washing.

Meanwhile, in an apparent vote of confidence for hand sanitizers, the FBI has ordered $40,000 of hand sanitizer and face masks “in case the coronavirus becomes a pandemic in the United States,” according to the acquisition document obtained by CNBC.

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John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP.

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