September 17, 2007
Most people know that they are supposed to wash their hands
to help prevent the spread of disease, but not everyone
"In a telephone poll of 1,001 people, about 92 percent
professed to wash their hands whenever they used a public
restroom. But when observers discreetly recorded the
behavior of 6,076 men and women in high-volume washrooms
around the country, only 77 percent actually did it. And
that's down from 83 percent who washed up in 2005."
While a higher percentage of people know what they "should"
say when asked if they wash their hands, fewer actually do
what they "should" do. This could lead some to believe
that, while most people know that hand washing is
important, they don't understand why it is important for
"Hand washing is a key tool in fending off germs, experts
say. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
considers it the single most effective step in preventing
the spread of ailments ranging from colds and flu to a host
of nasty gastrointestinal bugs. 'It's the number one public
health tool around today,' said Kellogg J. Schwab, an
associate professor of environmental health at the Johns
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Noroviruses
alone, which cause nasty bouts of nausea, vomiting and
stomach distress, infect 23 million people in the United
States each year, and much of their damage could be
prevented by hand washing."
"[M]uch of their damage could be prevented by hand
"This is the same illness that's been linked to hundreds of
people at one time, becoming sick on cruise ships. It
spreads incredibly quickly. At New Trier, all 120 people
affected became sick over the past five days. ... It all
started Monday when two students here at the Winnetka high
school became sick. By Friday, 120 young people and
teachers were battling what the Cook County Department of
Public Health suspects is the Norovirus."
Even without an outbreak of Norovirus, schools across the
country are seeing students and teachers out sick these
first few weeks as they are once again back together in the
classrooms and sharing whatever germs they picked up over
"Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we
can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to
others. It is best to wash your hands with soap and clean
running water for 20 seconds. However, if soap and clean
water are not available, use an alcohol-based product to
clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand rubs significantly
reduce the number of germs on skin and are fast acting."
Simply keeping hands clean can help improve your own
health, and the health of others.
"Hand washing is a simple habit -- one that requires
minimal training and no special equipment. Yet it's one of
the best ways to avoid getting sick. ... Good hand-washing
techniques include washing your hands with soap and water
or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Antimicrobial
wipes or towelettes are just as effective as soap and water
in cleaning your hands but aren't as good as alcohol-based
sanitizers. Antibacterial soaps have become increasingly
popular in recent years. However, these soaps are no more
effective at killing germs than are regular soap and water.
Using these soaps may lead to the development of bacteria
that are resistant to the products' antimicrobial agents --
making it even harder to kill these germs in the future. In
general, regular soap is fine. The combination of scrubbing
your hands with soap -- antibacterial or not -- and rinsing
them with water loosens and removes bacteria from your
Hand washing reminders:
"When washing hands with soap and water:
- Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap.
Use warm water if it is available.
- Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all
- Continue rubbing hands for 20 seconds. Need a timer?
Imagine singing 'Happy Birthday' twice through to a friend!
- Rinse hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If
possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet"
"Remember: If soap and water are not available, use
alcohol-based gel to clean hands.
When using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:
- Apply product to the palm of one hand
- Rub hands together
- Rub the product over all surfaces of hands and fingers until hands are dry."
Questions of the Week:
Why do you think that some people wash their hands more
frequently than others? What do your peers and family
members need to know about health, hygiene, and hand
washing? What do you think would be the best way to educate
people in order to help them understand not only that hand
washing is important, but why it is important for their
personal health and the health of those around them?
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