Thursday, December 4, 2008

Health Care and Hand Washing

As Americans prepare for another Winter Season, consideration of personal hygiene becomes even more important. Cold and flu season is almost synonymous with this time of year. Staying healthy during the winter months is more difficult due to the weather and the fact that there is more interaction among people during these months. This week is National Hand Washing Awareness Week. According to the Centers for Disease Control, "the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash you hands." Judicious hand washing can prevent not only common diseases like colds, but also more serious diseases like hepatitis A, meningitis, and infectious diarrhea. By frequently washing your hands, you wash away germs that you have picked up from other people, or from contaminated surfaces, or from animals and animal waste. The simple act of consistently performing this basic task properly will make a big difference in your own household as well as in work, school and public settings.

According to the CDC, tips for hand washing are vital. Here is why hand washing is important:
--Children have weaker immune systems than adults and can become sick quicker.
--1 in 3 E.coli outbreaks is caused by poor hand washing by food preparers.
--Germs that cause disease live in meat, vegetables, and more.
--Germs are spread from unclean hands to food, usually when the food handler doesn’t wash after going to the bathroom. Germs are then passed on to those who eat the food. Germs spread from uncooked foods like hamburger to the hands, then from the hands to other foods like salads. The germs can remain in the salads and eventually affect those who eat the food.
--Putting cooked meat back into its original container re-contaminates the cooked food.
--Avoid cutting vegetables on the same board used to cut meat contaminates the vegetables.

Here are 6 Main Rules of Hand Washing as noted by the CDC:
--Always wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, cleaning up after your pets, or handling money.
--Wash your hands when they’re dirty.
--Always wash your hands before eating.
--Don’t cough or sneeze into your hands.
--Refrain from putting your fingers in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
--Avoid touching people and surfaces with unclean hands.

Here is the correct way of washing hands according to the CDC:
--Wet hands with warm water (not hot) and use soap.
--Rub your hands together, making sure to scrub all areas.
--Rub for a minimum of 15 seconds or sing “Happy Birthday.”
--Rince thoroughly, then dry hands on a clean towel.
--Turn the faucet off with the towel, not hands, to keep away from re-contamination.

The CDC also provides some interesting statistics:
--2/3 of adults in the US wash hands after using the bathroom.
--1 in 4 adults don’t wash hands after changing diapers.
--Less than 1/2 of Americans wash hands after cleaning up after pets.
--1 in 3 wash hands after sneezing/coughing.
--Less than 1 in 5 wash hands after touching money.
--1 in 3 E.coli occurrences is caused from not washing hands before handling food.

According to, by following the 4 Principles of Hand Awareness you will be in virtual isolation regardless of the people around you. Direct contamination (inoculation) of your mucus membranes(eyes, nose or mouth) is how infectious disease enters your body. It is not wafting through the ventilation system in the building. Let's work together to minimize the fear factor of infectious disease pandemics or seasonal illness. Only you are responsible for giving yourself the flu or flu-like illness! The four principles of hand awareness endorsed by the American Medical Association are: (1)Wash your hands when they are dirty of before eating (2) Don't cough into your hands (3) Don't sneeze into your hands (4) Don't put your fingers into your eyes, nose or mouth. National Handwashing Awareness Week is the first full week of December each year since 1999. Thank you for lending a Hand to Protect your family and community!

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, everyone should wash his or her hands before eating, after going to the bathroom, during food preparation, after handling animals, upon arriving home, after changing diapers, when leaving the hospital or doctor's office and any other time hands may have become dirty or been in contact with germs. They report that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36,000 people die from the flu or flu-like illness each year, 5,000 people die from food borne illness each year, and between 78,000 and 90,000 patients die each year from hospital acquired infections, many of which could have been prevented with proper hand washing.

The Oklahoma Department of Health reports that hand sanitizing occurs when hands are visibly clean but can be de-contaminated by using an alcohol-based hand product such as a gel or foam. Check the label to be sure the product contains between 60 and 95 percent alcohol. Alcohol-based hand products only work on hands that appear to be clean because they cannot remove debris. Use enough of the product to thoroughly moisten your hands, and then rub the product in until your hands are dry. Hand sanitizers are fast and convenient. Most respiratory illnesses such as colds and influenza (flu), gastrointestinal illnesses such as diarrhea, and skin infections such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are spread by unclean hands. Germs multiply quickly on your skin and hands, so cleaning your hands well and often is important.

Maintaining good health is very important, especially with children, seniors and those with poor immune systems. Those who work in the food industry and the medical community especially are aware of the importance of hand washing. The old adage "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" is still true when it comes to staying healthy.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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