Information as of June 18, 2020. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic having impacted over 8.4 million people worldwide and resulted in nearly 450,000 deaths to date (Johns Hopkins University CSSE), discussions about proper hygiene and infection control methods are crucial in informing prevention for the general public and reducing transmission of the virus.

A study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in 2017 sought to provide evidence for the effectiveness of the WHO’s recommended alcohol hand solutions against several viruses, including the original SARS virus (SARS-CoV-1) and the MERS coronavirus. The study involved testing the alcohol-based formulations recommended, and assessing whether or not they effectively inactivated these coronaviruses. The primary goal was to determine the virucidal activity of the disinfectants, or their ability to fully deactivate the viruses.

This study found that the WHO’s recommended alcohol formulations were effective in inactivating both the SARS and MERS coronaviruses. As the virus which causes the COVID-19 disease (SARS-CoV-2) is also a coronavirus, the results of this study help inform the evidence base behind the World Health Organization’s current hand hygiene recommendations for COVID-19, which include the use of alcohol-based hand disinfectants with at least 60% alcohol. The use of alcohol-based sanitizers is effective, but is not to be used as a replacement for consistent handwashing with soap. 

These hygiene measures are important to continue implementing in healthcare settings, households, and public spaces which may still remain open- such as grocery stores and other essential businesses to prevent spread of the virus.

Additionally, other proper hygiene methods should be heeded related to disinfectant use. Recent data from the CDC concerning a reported increase in calls to Poison Control Centers related to disinfectants suggest potential misinformation and misuse of cleaning products and disinfectants during the pandemic. Information on safe methods for disinfecting against COVID-19 and a list of EPA Certified disinfectants for use in households can be found here

More detailed information on the 2017 research study can be found within the original research article

Citation: Siddharta, A., Pfaender, S., Vielle, N. J., Dijkman, R., Friesland, M., Becker, B., … & Brill, F. H. (2017). Virucidal Activity of World Health Organization–Recommended Formulations Against Enveloped Viruses, Including Zika, Ebola, and Emerging Coronaviruses. The Journal of infectious diseases, 215(6), 902-906.

A recent preprint study which seeks to directly assess how the WHO’s recommended hand rub solutions fare in inactivating the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be found here.  Note: This study is an early release publication that has not undergone full peer review or is considered the final version by the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal or the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.