There were more than 800 reported cases of coronavirus in the United States as of Tuesday and more than 115,000 worldwide. This scare has led to a spike in sales of products Americans think will help them avoid the virus, like hand sanitizer, and shoppers have been taking pictures of barren grocery store aisles, reporting that things like toilet paper and pasta are all gone.
More than likely, however, there is no need to buy too much of anything, Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals who works with the UH Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health, tells Grow. "I do not think that there is going to be a massive coronavirus outbreak in the United States, so my advice would be to be vigilant, but calm, and not to panic."
To protect yourself from coronavirus, health professionals say the most important thing to do is wash your hands regularly. Don't forget to clean your phone regularly, too. "I always clean my phone at least once per day," says Edwards.
"It's often said that your phone is like a third hand because you're constantly touching it," says cleaning influencer Melissa Maker.
People take their phones out to eat, on the train, and to the bathroom. As a result, cellphones carry more than 17,000 bacterial gene copies each, according to a 2017 study. The report concluded that this "may play a role in the spread of infectious agents."
Cleaning phones daily, at least, is smart, says Edwards. "Certainly, if you are letting a lot of people use your phone, you would want to clean it to help prevent spread."
If you want to clean your phone effectively, Maker says not to use a Lysol wipe or disinfectant wipe, as it may strip the coating of your phone over time. "The chemicals that are used in those disinfectant wipes are not meant to be used on electronics," she says.
Until recently, Apple advised against the use of traditional cleaning products or compressed air. But this week, Apple updated its instructions to say, as long as you wipe gently and avoid getting any liquid in charging ports.
Guidelines for Android handsets still advise steering clear of disinfectant wipes.
One alternative: cleaning wipes that are specifically made for electronic devices. A 210-pack of individually wrapped lens- and screen-cleaning wipes is $16.99 on Amazon right now.
Maker suggests using a microfiber cloth. "Microfiber has the ability to pick up bacteria," Makers says. "Then you can launder the microfiber cloth." A six-pack of microfiber cleaning clothes is $9.99 on Amazon right now.
A damp microfiber cloth can remove microorganisms including viruses and bacteria and is more effective than a cotton rag, microbiologist Kristen Gibson told the The Wall Street Journal. It won't damage your phone the way a Lysol wipe might, either.
You can also pair one with a homemade cleaner that is equal parts water and rubbing alcohol. Dip the cloth in the mixture, make sure it's not excessively wet, and then wipe down all parts of your phone. This will serve as an effective disinfectant.
And, of course, make sure you frequently wash your hands.
More from Grow: