Are you washing your hands correctly to avoid getting sick? One doctor says most of us aren’t

WATCH: Are you washing your hands correctly to avoid getting sick? One doctor says most of us aren't

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Worldwide, the Coronavirus has millions of people on edge. Here in the United States, the threat isn’t as grave with only a handful of cases reported and health officials already doing what they can to contain and prevent the virus from spreading. We here in the Mid-South should be much more concerned with a more clear and present danger.

The flu virus kills tens of thousands of people every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee as states with “widespread” flu activity in the latest report.

It’s a sickness that we can at least slow down, if we do two things: Get a flu shot and wash our hands.

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Doctors told us not getting the shot is a mistake. But do you really know how to properly wash your hands to protect yourself? The answer for most of us is no.

“The flu kills thousands of people every year. Yet people skip the flu shot. So sometimes we definitely jump to the things that are new and scarier, but the flu is a much bigger threat than the Coronavirus, there’s no doubl about that,” said epidemiologist Dr. Steven Threlkeld.

He is one of the top doctors in his field. He begs his patients to get a flu shot every year. And every year, many just don’t.

Threlkeld also begs his patients to wash their hands. And while most of us do, the good doctor said most of us are doing it wrong.

“People don’t typically wash their hands long enough. It takes about 20 seconds. You can sing happy birthday for two choruses to make that time up. And if you just watch somebody in the bathroom, not many people utilize it for that long a period of time. So it is important to use the soap and water for long enough,” Threlkeld added,

So what about that alcohol-based hand sanitizer on every counter in America these days?

Threlkeld said chances are, we aren’t using it correctly either.

“There are some more recent data, to kill some of the viruses, even the flu virus, you might need the alcohol applied to that virus for longer than most people are going to use the hand sanitizer as you mentioned.”

FOX13 hit the streets of Memphis to put people’s knowledge of hand washing to the test.

The CDC recommends to use at least one milliliter, enough to completely cover the hands. That’s more than the one little pump most people use.

Depending on the size of your hands and the area you want to clean, it can be up to 5 pumps from a standard container.

“Whoa, that’s way to much. That’s a lot of hand sanitizer. WHOA!!!!”, said one Central High School student we talked to.

The CDC wants us to use enough to cover the hands for a full 30 seconds, or longer. And remember to use an alcohol based hand sanitizer that is at least 60-percent alcohol by volume.