Clean hands can save lives: part one

Posted on 13 May 2015

There are many kinds of viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi – in short, germs – that cause illnesses. The problem is that germs are easily spread, which can have devastating effects in the case of potentially harmful infectious diseases.

The good news is that regular, proper hand-washing really helps to banish bacteria. In fact, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say hand-washing is like a DIY ‘vaccine’, in that it is a smart preventative measure against the spread of contagious diseases.

You may think, ‘I know that already and I wash my hands’, but the Global Infection Challenge Survey found that only one in every 20 people washes their hands properly. And South Africans are no exception. If you need more convincing to be fastidious about cleaning your hands, have a look at this:

Scary facts
• 85% of bathroom sponges in South Africa failed microbiological tests in the Dettol Hygiene Home Truths Swabbing Study conducted by the Global Hygiene Council.
• 16% of cellphones harbour E. coli bacteria, which is found in faeces and can cause serious illness.
• Globally about 2,2 million children under 5 die each year from pneumonia and diarrheal diseases. These top two killers are easily spread.
• Bites and scratches from cats can transmit germs including toxoplasmosis, rabies, cat scratch disease, salmonella, campylobacter, giardia and cryptosporidium, roundworm and ringworm.
• An average washing machine load can contain 100 million E.coli bacteria at any given time.
• The flu virus can stay active on surfaces for up to two days.
• Only three in five people claim their kids always wash their hands before eating.
• Your kitchen sink contains 100 000 times more germs than your toilet.
• High chairs or places where kids eat can also have higher bacteria levels than toilets.
• The average office desk harbours millions of germs.
• Your TV remote is a likely resting place for rhinovirus, a germ that can cause the common cold, according to a University of Virginia study.

The benefits of hand-washing
Hand-washing has been shown to reduce the incidence of diarrheal infections and limit the spread of avian flu, respiratory illnesses and more. When populations wash their hands with soap, they stand to protect about one out of every three young children who get sick with diarrhea and almost one out of six young kids with respiratory infections. One study in Pakistan showed a massive 50% reduction in childhood deaths from diarrhoea and pneumonia in households where occupants regularly washed their hands.

How often do you wash your hands? Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter using #BanishBacteria.

The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

Published in Healthy Life

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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