December 10, 2002
The cruise ship incidents
have been in the news....
"Recent reports of gastrointestinal illness aboard cruise ships
may have some travelers thinking twice about setting sail, but cruise
industry officials said there is little cause for worry.... The virus
can be transmitted from person to person, the method of transmission
suspected in the recent outbreaks, or through contaminated food and
water. Hand washing and limiting hand-to-mouth contact are the best
ways to prevent it, health officials said."
Hospitals have been in the
"Germs in hospitals kill more Americans every year than car accidents,
fires and drownings combined, the Chicago Tribune reports. In a special
investigation, the newspaper found that in 2000 nearly three-quarters
of these deadly infections -- or about 75,000 -- were preventable.
Strict adherence to clean-hand policies alone could save 20,000 lives,
according to the federal government."
It is now a commonly accepted
practice for doctors...
"Improved adherence to hand hygiene (i.e. hand washing or use
of alcohol-based hand rubs) has been shown to terminate outbreaks
in health care facilities, to reduce transmission of antimicrobial
resistant organisms (e.g. methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus)
and reduce overall infection rates."
This hasn't always been the
"In the late 1840's, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis was an assistant in
the maternity wards of a Vienna hospital. There he observed that the
mortality rate in a delivery room staffed by medical students was
up to three times higher than in a second delivery room staffed by
midwives. In fact, women were terrified of the room staffed by the
medical students. Semmelweis observed that the students were coming
straight from their lessons in the autopsy room to the delivery room.
He postulated that the students might be carrying the infection from
their dissections to birthing mothers. He ordered doctors and medical
students to wash their hands with a chlorinated solution before examining
women in labor. The mortality rate in his maternity wards eventually
dropped to less than one percent.... Despite
its rocky beginnings, handwashing has become a part of our culture.
Handwashing and other hygienic practices are taught at every level
of school, advocated in the work place, and emphasized during medical
training. According to the United States Centers of Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC), 'Handwashing is the single most important means
of preventing the spread of infection.'"
It sounds as if it should
be so easy...
"'Your hands are the most important means from which germs travel
from one person to another,' said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of
hospital infectious programs at the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention in Atlanta. 'So it would make sense that washing your hands
would be an effective strategy for protecting yourself.' ...And all
it really takes is about 10 to 15 seconds worth of effort, according
to Gerberding. So here's the dirt on the subject..." http://www.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/09/18/hand.washing/
Question of the Week:
With all this evidence of the good it does, what are reasons people
would choose not to wash their hands? What can individuals, schools,
and places of business do to encourage proper hand washing and help
reduce the spread of disease? What should they do?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum