Hand hygiene is a crucial element in the fight against deadly viral pathogens, such as COVID-19 and influenza--the only problem is, most people are not doing it correctly.
The Importance of Hand Hygiene Compliance in the Fight Against Germs
In life, there are few things under our direct control.
For example, we have little to no control over:
- The general levels of surface sanitation in public places.
- Whether or not people we come into contact with are ill, or;
- How thoroughly other people wash their hands.
This makes touch--surface-to-hand or hand-to-hand contact--the single most significant purveyor of common disease we know of.
However, one thing we can control is our own hand hygiene, which provides two advantages, especially against enveloped viruses, like SARS-CoV-2.
- Soap destroys the fatty lipid surrounding enveloped viruses, resulting in deactivation, and;
- Soap creates a slippery layer on your skin, allowing for the removal of dirt, germs, and bacteria when proper scrubbing and rinsing are practiced.
Unfortunately, the majority of people do not wash their hands well, if at all.
According to WebMD;
A 2013 study had trained observers discreetly watch more than 3,700 people wash their hands.
It found that only about 5% of them followed all the rules.
About one in four people just wet their hands without using soap -- a move hygiene researchers call the “splash and dash.”
About one in 10 didn’t wash at all after a trip to the restroom.
The most common shortcoming for most people was time. Only 5% spent more than 15 seconds washing, rubbing, and rinsing their hands.
The lack of hand hygiene compliance runs contrary to recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Germs spread from surfaces to people when we touch a surface and then touch our face with unwashed hands.
Proper handwashing is the best way to protect yourself and others from being exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
To combat COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source recommends regularly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, particularly if you’ve been in a public area or have sneezed, coughed, or blown your nose.
Washing your hands properly with soap and running water can stave off illnesses that affect healthy people, as well as those with weakened immune systems.
Handwashing can protect you from COVID-19 and respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, and gastric infections that cause diarrhea.
Improving Hand Hygiene to Ensure Public Health
Two things are immediately evident from the data coming out of the official studies:
- High levels of hand hygiene are mandatory for preventing ongoing outbreaks, and;
- We're nowhere near the levels we need to be at to protect the public's health.
To improve upon these numbers and ensure maximum compliance, the first step is training people how and when to wash their hands.
The CDC recommends:
- Rinsing your hands with clean running water.
- Applying soap and scrubbing your hands vigorously for a minimum of 20 seconds, and;
- Rinsing the soap off your hands into the sink, down and away from your body.
The second part of high-quality hand hygiene, and of equal importance to washing your hands, is drying them.
What many people may not be aware of is that bacteria are more easily transmitted from wet hands than dry hands.
This is one of the primary reasons why hand drying is so integral to stopping the spread of germs and bacteria.
Using paper towels to dry your hands not only removes the moisture from hands more quickly and efficiently than other drying methods, but the friction caused by the towels allows for even further removal of microorganisms.
Moreover, paper towels serve as a protective barrier from recontamination after hand washing when used to turn off faucets and open doors.
Despite evidence supporting hand drying’s critical role in reducing the spread of germs and bacteria and the benefits of using paper towels over other hand drying methods, the importance of hand drying continues to be overlooked.
Finally, the CDC recommends the application of 60-95% alcohol-based hand sanitizer to your hands after exiting the restroom or hand hygiene station.
The sanitizer should remain wet on your hands and allowed to dry to ensure maximum effectiveness.
This process should be followed:
- Before and after preparing food.
- Prior to, and immediately after, providing care to a sick or injured person.
- After using the restroom or changing a child's diaper.
- After handling garbage or trash bin, and;
- After providing care for or feeding pets or livestock.
References & Resources
With all of the confusion surrounding public health and safety during this trying time, it is important to stay focused on what each of us can do to protect ourselves, our families, and our community.
While it is true that far too much of what is going on is outside of our direct sphere of influence, one thing we can do is make certain that we are providing barriers to infection and typical paths of transmission, which means washing our hands--often, and well.
As a business owner or facilities manager, there are a few additional steps that you can take to ensure the occupants of your facility are washing their hands thoroughly.
- Keep the restrooms clean.
- Make sure the garbage is emptied regularly.
- Ensure that all restroom fixtures are working properly.
- Monitor the restroom traffic and have someone check in from time to time to make sure everything is clean and in working order, and;
- Maintain adequate supplies of soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer.
Outsourcing your facilities' cleaning and infection prevention and control measures to an experienced service provider is a proven method for ensuring the highest standards of cleanliness and safety are adhered to.
Contact us today and discover why Vanguard Cleaning Systems® is the Standard of Clean® for businesses throughout Northwest Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma, dial 918-960-4450
In Arkansas, dial 479-717-2410
In Missouri, dial 417-812-9777