A mascot of the Bangkok Mass Transit System stands wearing a face mask during a campaign to wear masks and wash hands at the skytrain station in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Credit: Sakchai Lalit | AP

The coronavirus killed 97 people in just one day in China and its death toll, near 1,000, has exceeded that of the deadly SARS outbreak that stretched from November 2002 to July 2003.

More than 40,000 cases have been reported, most of them in China, although cases have been reported in Thailand and France.

The doctor who first reported the illness, Li Wenliang, died from it on Friday. He tried to spread a warning about the mysterious illness but was stifled by Chinese authorities, a troubling and dangerous reminder of the communist government’s attempts to suppress unflattering news about the country.

In Maine, cases of influenza continue to rise. Nearly 4,000 flu cases have been confirmed in the state, according to the most recent report from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirteen people have died. The flu season will continue to run through May.

Many people are rightly concerned about both illnesses. No prevention is foolproof, but there is one simple thing you can do to reduce your risk of contracting illnesses: wash your hands.

It’s such simple advice that we feel a little silly reminding you about it.

But, it turns out, far too many people — including doctors — are bad at following this simple hygiene habit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 31 percent of men and 65 percent of women wash their hands after using a public restroom.


Another study found that 95 percent of people don’t wash their hands properly.

So here’s a tutorial from the CDC:

Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you need a timer, hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end, twice.

Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

Dry your hands using a clean towel, or air dryer

You can use hand sanitizer if soap and water isn’t available.

Simple and easy.

You should wash your hands after going to the bathroom, when caring for someone who is sick or when preparing food or taking out the trash. You should also wash your hands after you sneeze or blow your nose.

Washing your hands won’t guarantee that you won’t contract an illness, but it will reduce the risk that you will carry germs that can make you — and your family, co-workers and others — sick.

And, it beats simply fretting about diseases — near and far — that can make you sick.

Hand washing won’t solve the troublesome spread of coronavirus, or eliminate the threats posed by more common but still worrying diseases like the flu. But basic good hygiene is an easy way to reduce the risk of viral infection, for yourself and for others.

“Channel your fears into productive behaviors,” Aaron E. Carroll, a pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, wrote recently in a New York Times blog. “That’s how you’ll significantly reduce your risk from being infected with [the coronavirus]. It’ll also help you from being infected with the flu. It’ll even help protect you from getting a cold. Wins all around.”

The BDN Editorial Board

The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...