Everyone from Elmo to President Obama is telling people to wash their hands to avoid getting the swine flu, and Disney could make a killing on “Musical Hand Wash Timers” featuring its stable of characters. But Newsweek talks to scientists skeptical of the approach: Hand-washing might be great for colds, but not so much against the flu because they say it's transmitted by air instead of through touch.
“We don't want to create a crisis in confidence,” says a scientist in charge of a flu-research center in Minnesota. “But we have to be honest: the evidence doesn't show that hand-washing prevents the spread of the influenza virus.” A Berkeley epidemiologist agrees and fears the simplistic focus on washing hands could give people a false sense of security. The CDC stands by its advice as a good practice against "respiratory infections in general" but stresses that the best practice is to get a flu shot in October.