California official briefing on coronavirus licks her fingers moments after warning not to touch your face

The idiom “Do as I say, not as I do” could not be more true for one health official in California.

Moments after warning Santa Clara County residents to avoid touching their faces to prevent contracting the novel coronavirus, the director of the county’s health department, Dr. Sara Cody, licked her finger to turn the page in her notes — and the moment quickly went viral. 

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“Today, start working on not touching your face — because one main way viruses spread is when you touch your own mouth, nose or eyes,” Cody said during a Friday news conference. She licked her finger moments later.

As of this writing, at least 14 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Santa Clara County.

On average, people touch their faces some 23 times per hour, according to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). But avoiding putting your hands on your face is one of the most effective ways to prevent contracting illnesses — namely respiratory ones.

“Respiratory infections can be caused by many different bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing germs. When you touch your face with dirty, unwashed hands, germs can take up residence in your mucous membranes, which can lead to an infection,” it adds. 

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Another way to stay healthy is to ensure you are washing your hands correctly. 

“Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing,” Dr. Amy Fuller, director of Endicott College’s family nurse practitioner master’s degree program, told Fox News. “If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.”

Fuller said any kind of soap for hand-washing would do, but when it comes to hand sanitizer it is preferred that the product have at least 60 percent alcohol content to kill off any potentially dangerous germs.

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Read about other ways to protect yourself from coronavirus here.

Fox News' Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.