The role of facial contact in infection control: Renewed import in the age of coronavirus

Paul A. Christensen, Joseph R. Anton, Canivan R. Anton, Mary R. Schwartz, Rose C. Anton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Decreasing facial contact takes on new urgency as society tries to stem the tide of COVID-19 spread. A better understanding of the pervasiveness of facial contact in social settings is required in order to then take steps to mitigate the action. Methods: YouTube videos of random individuals were included in a behavioral observation study to document rates of contact to the eyes, nose, and mouth area. Factors including age, sex, the presence of eyewear or facial hair, distraction and fatigue were analyzed as possible contributing factors that increase likelihood of facial contact. Results: The median rate of facial contact was 22 contacts per hour. Men had a significantly higher rate of facial contact compared to women. Age, glasses, and presence of facial hair were not contributing factors. The mouth was the most frequently observed site of contact. Fatigue and distraction may increase rates of facial contact. Conclusions: Changing personal behavior is a simple and cost-effective action that can be employed to reduce one's risk of acquiring an infectious disease. This study indicates that there are societal differences that put some individuals at higher risk of contracting infectious disease than others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-673
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Infection Control
Issue number6
Early online dateNov 4 2020
StateE-pub ahead of print - Nov 4 2020


  • Hand hygiene
  • Hand-to-face contact
  • Infection transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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