The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and Korea Center for Disease Control distributed 15,000 bottles of hand sanitizer to combat an outbreak of norovirus at the Olympics, the New York Daily News reports. Health authorities have also hung signs all over at the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea reminding people to clean their hands. Unfortunately, the bottles of 62-percent ethanol hand sanitizer that The New York Times said was distributed by young volunteers will do little to stop the spread of the incredibly contagious virus.
Norovirus is so contagious that it’s been known to shut down entire schools from too many absent students. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. It comes on quickly and can leave its victims vomiting as frequently as every 20 minutes for several hours.
The bad news is that to remove norovirus from our hands before we eat to prevent infection, we have to wash them the old-fashioned way. This is because hand sanitizer just can’t destroy norovirus, according to an article published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology nearly five years ago. It may have been five years, but many people still don’t realize how virtually useless alcohol-based sanitizers are against this virus.
“Some viruses, like influenza, are coated in lipids, ‘envelopes’ that alcohol can rupture. But non-enveloped viruses, like norovirus, are generally not affected,” the New York Timesreported citing the Applied and Environmental Microbiology article.