Online germ advice to help stop spread of COVID-19

Hand washing

With Covid-19 infections still high and people preparing for Christmas gatherings, it is vitally important to try to reduce the spread of infection in people’s homes as this is where infections are now most likely to be transmitted.

Research suggests people who follow the advice from Germ Defence, developed by the universities of Southampton, Bristol and Bath, are less likely to catch flu or other viruses and less likely to pass it on to members of their household.

Germ Defence has been scientifically proven to work against respiratory infections. In a Lancet study of over 20,000 people, using the online advice reduced the spread of swine flu and seasonal flu in the home.

The website provides personalised advice on how to protect everyone in the household from infection. The website has been updated for Covid-19 by a team of health researchers, working with members of the public and Public Health England, and with funding from National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research Institute (UKRI). Earlier this month it reached the milestone of the first 100,000 users, who gave it an average rating of eight out of ten for usefulness.

Lucy Yardley, Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Southampton, who led the development of Germ Defence, said: “Many people don’t realise that there are simple things they can do that will really reduce the risk of virus in the home. Germ Defence can help everyone and includes advice on what to do if someone in the household may be infected, or could become very ill if they are infected.”

Dr Jeremy Horwood, Associate Professor in Social Sciences and Health from NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West (ARC West) at the University of Bristol, added: “The updated Covid-19 version of Germ Defence helps people understand what measures to take in the home and how to adopt habits that will help to avoid infection. By rolling out Germ Defence we hope it could help save lives by reducing the spread of the Covid-19.”

Dr Ben Ainsworth, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath who is leading the adaptation of Germ Defence for Covid-19, explained: “The advice in Germ Defence has been tested with help from many public volunteers, working together with scientists, doctors and health experts, to make sure the advice and tips are as understandable and useful as possible. It’s available in more than 25 languages and is constantly updated as new scientific evidence and research comes out.”

Sascha Miller, who has been working with members of the public to make sure the advice is useful to them, said: “With winter and Christmas coming, we know that people are keen to learn how to make their home as safe as possible for all the family. Germ Defence provides practical advice on things like ventilation and social distancing to help people spend time together.”

Cathy Rice, a member of the public who is part of the Germ Defence team, added: “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to protect ourselves and our families against Covid-19, but Germ Defence gives simple steps that really work. It only takes 10 minutes, it’s backed up by science, and it’s something everyone can do. Go to it!”

Anonymous feedback from users includes:

  • “Good website, simple clear and easy to understand.”
  • “It was very easy to follow, broken up into sections, and interactive, which also helps.”
  • “I have found your ‘germ defence’ pages very useful thought provoking.”
  • “Gives people positive thing to do to keep themselves and their families safe.”
  • “It reinforces easy ways that most of us can do to reduce infection.”
  • “I am a family carer and sent the link to both my mother who is shielding and my 23-year-old son… he has been watching my efforts over the past weeks. He won’t be told anything by me, so your website is a great way to get the message across.”

/Public Release. View in full here.