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Inadequate handwashing fuels infectious disease transmission September 20, 2007

Posted by Dreamhealer in Research.

Insufficient handwashing, the simple soap-and-water solution to avoid transmission of infectious diseases that can be deadly, remains a major problem among the general public and medical staff even in wealthy countries, public health officials warn.”Many cases of colds, flu, and foodborne illness are spread by unclean hands, and these diseases are responsible for billions of dollars each year in health care expenditures and productivity losses in the US,” said Dr. Judy Daly, spokeswoman for the American Society of Microbioloy (ASM) and Director of the Microbiology Laboratories at the Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

“Worldwide, infectious diseases remain the leading cause of illness and death,” she stressed.

A survey released Monday on the first day of the 47th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy/ICAAC in Chicago, organized by the ASM, found that nearly a quarter of US adults did not wash their hands after using public restrooms in 2007 — up sharply from 2005.

And Gentlemen, Please: the study, based on observational research by the Soap and Detergent Association/SDA and carried out in busy public areas in four major cities (New York, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco) found that men were the chief offenders.

While 88 percent of women washed their hands after using public restrooms, only 66 percent of men bothered to do so, down two and 10 percent respectively from 2005 levels, according to the survey carried out this year.

Maybe they are not even aware, or maybe they feel guilty about it, but in a parallel SDA survey carried out in 2007 by telephone, 92 percent of those surveyed were quite sure they washed their hands after using public facilities.

The same telephone poll found that nearly 73 percent claimed they always washed their hands after changing a diaper, while 78 percent said they always washed up before eating or touching food, levels that were unchanged since 2005.

Just 34 percent said they washed their hands after coughing or sneezing, up slightly from 32 percent two years earlier, according to authors of this study released to drum up publicity for “clean hands campaign” week in the United States.

Medical staff who fail to wash up and disinfect before contact with patients is the cause of many of the huge number of hospital-acquired infections that some 1.4 million people have worldwide at any time, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data.

The WHO in 2005 declared war on inadequate basic hygiene by many doctors and nurses in many countries. The campaign dubbed “Clean Care is Safer Care,” is starting to bear fruit as better strategies have emerged in fostering hand cleanliness, according to selon Benedetta Allegranzi of the WHO in Geneva.

Eighteen countries have launched campaigns to promote handwashing aggressively among medical staff to help curb hospital infections, the WHO says.

“These combined efforts have the potential to save millions of lives, prevent morbidities, and lead to major cost savings through the improvement of basic infection control measures,” Allegranzi said of the efforts.

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