Hundreds of millions of lives around the world can be saved by an almost zero cost addition to healthcare procedures and our daily lives -- hand washing.
Millions of patients die, or are affected by diseases, like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, and other severe infections that occur during patient treatment in healthcare facilities.
Experts agree that simple hand washing and cleanliness techniques can significantly lessen the global disease burden. Hand washing is a routine activity that every individual needs to implement into his or her life. – not just healthcare workers.
Embedding hand hygiene promotional activities as a national priority is the key, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO has created a “Save Lives: Clean Your Hands” campaign that is set for May 5 2013. The global movement is designed to improve hand hygiene education, awareness and to provide sustainable solutions to healthcare professionals to help reduce the burden of hygiene-related patient disease.
Registrations are particularly encouraged from countries with zero or low numbers of registrations.
The “Save Lives Clean Your Hands” campaign starts on Sunday May 5 Sunday to ensure all health-care workers have the opportunity to take part in hand hygiene awareness-raising activities.
The WHO program “looks to ensure that infection control is acknowledged universally as an essential basis towards patient safety that supports the reduction of healthcare-associated infections and their potential life-threatening consequences.
As of May 2012, “over 15 000 health-care facilities have committed to improve hand hygiene. This represents approximately 10 million health-care workers, and more than 3.7 patient-beds, an unprecedented achievement” according to the WHO.
“Our efforts and those of health-care workers in these facilities must now be directed towards sustaining improvements and thereby reducing healthcare-associated infections and patient suffering”, says Professor Didier Pittet, Director, Infection Control Programme, University of Geneva Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Infection Control demonstrated that hand washing could prevent disease transmission in the household setting as well. Previous studies focused mainly on the importance of hand washing and workers in the food and health industries.
Researchers tested toilets in homes where at least one person had been diagnosed with salmonella – a common cause of food poisoning. They found that toilets could remain contaminated for up to three weeks after its confirmed presence. A similar study demonstrated how a virus could be transmitted through touching a contaminated door handle and shaking hands. spreading the virus to up to six additional people.
The authors of the study commented that people should be aware of the surfaces that are touched by a large number of people such as faucets, toilet flush handles and doorknobs.
Other common forms of germ transmission include coughing and sneezing. The direct spray into the air or on to one’s hands can facilitate the spread of bacteria and viruses. Also be aware of other activities like changing diapers, touching trashcans and any surface that may have come in contact with waste or food products.
Clean your hands regularly. Wash your hands with soap and water. Dry them thoroughly. Use alcohol-based hand rub if you don’t have immediate access to soap and water.
The most common hand-washing mistake is not washing one’s hands long enough. Washing one’s hands thoroughly starts with warm or cold water and then applying soap. Keep washing all areas of the hands and wrists for a minimum of 40 to 60 seconds. Creating a routine is the most effective way of ensuring that all areas are properly cleaned. A fun, known way of washing one’s hands effectively is thinking of a song while washing. This will help improve the overall time of washing.
It is important to rinse off any additional soap and dry hands with a paper towel, a clean hand towel or dry hands with an air drier. It is also recommended to turn off the faucet with the towel as that can prevent recontamination of one’s hands. Alcohol wipes or hand sanitizers are effective if soap and water are not available.
Children at greatest risk
We all know that kids don't listen very well when you tell them to wash their hands before eating, after using the bathroom, or when they come inside from playing. Regardless, it's an important continual message that can reduce future minor and serious illnesses.
Hand washing is the best way to prevent germs from spreading to other children and eventually the whole family .
The “Save Lives: Clean Your Hands” WHO campaign is directed towards healthcare professionals but we must not forget that our daily personal choices will also impact our health
Healthy habits are exactly that, habits. Create a routine of washing one’s hands before, during and after activities that are known to infest them. Minimize possible exposures and transmissions by understanding the most common culprits of the problem.
If you’re a healthcare professional, go to the following site if you’d like to participate in the May 5 event. http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/registration_update/en/index.html
Dr. Cory Couillard is an international healthcare speaker and columnist He works in collaboration with the World Health Organization's goals of disease prevention and global healthcare education.