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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And as we've heard over and over in recent days, one way to prevent the spread of flu viruses is to wash your hands, and the key is for a long time.

NPR's Allison Aubrey reports on what adults can learn from a typical 5-year-old.

ALLISON AUBREY: If anyone has ritualized the act of hand washing, it's preschool teachers.

Ms. KAREN ROBISON (Preschool Teacher, Learning Center for Young Children): And can you put your hands right under the water and really rub. We'll do it together.

AUBREY: Teacher Karen Robison says her kids here at this preschool in Kensington, Maryland, know the drill. They sing.

Ms. ROBISON: (Singing) A-B-C-D-E-F-G…

AUBREY: The whole song takes about 20 seconds. That's how long you have to wash to get the job done right.

Ms. ROBISON: (Singing) Q-R-S…

Is the dirt coming off?

AUBREY: Robison and preschool director Karen Murphy say the singing really works.

Ms. KAREN MURPHY (Preschool Director, Learning Center for Young Children): What we do do is certainly quite effective.

AUBREY: Microbiologist Rob Donofrio, who has studied where germs linger, says these hand-washing rituals are very effective. But he says don't forget about all those crevices where microorganisms can thrive, such as the back of the fingernails, down where the skin meets the nail. To clean there, Donofrio demonstrates with a small scrub brush.

Mr. ROB DONOFRIO (Director, National Sanitation Foundation International Microbiology Laboratories): I'm scrubbing my fingers now for about 10 seconds or so, and just going kind of horizontally across the nails.

AUBREY: Donofrio says he understand that you can't expect kids to scrub their nails every time they wash, just like you can't expect adults to sing the ABCs. So how could we reinforce the idea of washing for a full 20 seconds? Maybe we need some kind of hand-washing song for grown-ups. I gathered some suggestions and took them to the NPR Music Team. Here's Bob Boilen.

BOB BOILEN: The guitar riff from "Layla," dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah.

AUBREY: Or how about two rounds of…

(Soundbite of song, "Hit the Road Jack")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Hit the road, Jack, and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more. Hit the road, Jack, and don't you come back no more.

AUBREY: Or how about Robin Hilton's suggestion of a song that shows just how long 20 seconds can feel?

ROBIN HILTON: My money's totally on "Bohemian Rhapsody."

(Soundbite of song, "Bohemian Rhapsody")

Mr. FREDDIE MERCURY (Vocalist, Queen): (Singing) I see a little silhouette of a man. Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?

AUBREY: That's five seconds.

(Soundbite of song, "Bohemian Rhapsody")

Mr. MERCURY: (Singing) Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me.

AUBREY: Now that's 10 seconds.

(Soundbite of song, "Bohemian Rhapsody")

Mr. MERCURY: (Singing) Galileo (Galileo), Galileo (Galileo), Galileo Figaro, magnifico. I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me…

AUBREY: And you get the point. That's 20 seconds.

Allison Aubrey, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, "Bohemian Rhapsody")

Mr. MERCURY: (Singing) Oh mama mia, mama mia…

MONTAGNE: When your 20 seconds are up, sanitize your keyboard and head to npr.org, where you'll find the latest on the outbreak in our flu shots blog.

(Soundbite of song, "Bohemian Rhapsody")

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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