Tahoe Forest Health System: Celebrate National Handwashing week | SierraSun.com

Tahoe Forest Health System: Celebrate National Handwashing week

Laurel Holmer
Infection Control Practitioner
Tahoe Forest Health System

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has declared Dec. 6- 12 as National Handwashing Awareness Week. Hand Hygiene and Awareness is promoted throughout the year by public health officials and is especially important during flu season. The current H1N1 influenza pandemic gives all of us additional reason to use basic infection prevention and control methods at all times. Basic common sense regarding hand hygiene and hand awareness is the message from infection prevention and control experts. It seems like it would be a and#8220;no brainer,and#8221; but handwashing is not a routine activity for many.

The simple strategy of hand washing was shown to be effective in preventing disease in 1847 when the Austrian physician Ignac Semmelweis showed deaths in mothers from an infection following childbirth could be reduced simply by making doctors and medical students wash their hands in a disinfectant solution before entering the maternity ward. According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), hand hygiene is still the single best way to prevent healthcare-associated infections, common colds and influenza.

The CDC states human hands are the most common means of transmitting germs. Hands laden with millions of microscopic germy organisms, picked up from environmental surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, faucet handles, cell phones, pagers, office equipment, other peopleand#8217;s hands, transfer organisms to everything we touch. When our contaminated hands touch own mucous membranes, specifically eyes, nose or mouth, these germs can enter our body and can cause diseases such as the common cold, influenza, hepatitis A, and conjunctivitis. If contaminated hands touch a break in the skin, the result could be a skin or soft tissue infection from MRSA, a form of staph aureus infection that is resistant to common antibiotics.

Inadequate hand hygiene also contributes to food-related gastrointestinal illnesses, such as salmonella and E. coli infection. According to the CDC, as many as 76 million Americans get a food-borne illness each year. Of these, about 5,000 die as a result of their illness. Others experience the annoying signs and symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Hand awareness and hygiene

Knowing where your hands are and what they are doing is the first step to hand awareness and practicing proper hand hygiene. Itand#8217;s a fact of life we will touch objects that potentially are contaminated with disease-causing organisms throughout our daily tasks, but washing your hands properly and practicing hand awareness can eliminate or reduce risks.

The Principles of Hand Awareness include: Wash your hands properly, do not cough or sneeze into your hands, do not touch your hands or fingers to the T-zone (eyes, nose, or mouth).

The Principles of Hand Hygiene include: Either properly washing with soap and water when hands are visibly soiled or rubbing your hands with a hand sanitizer until the product is dry on your hands when they are not visibly soiled. Clean your hands often: Before, during, and after preparing food, before eating and after using the bathroom, after handling animals or animal waste, more frequently when someone in your home or work is sick.

The correct way to wash hands is to: Remove jewelry and wet hands and wrists with warm water, use one or two squirts of liquid or foam soap, lather soap and scrub hands vigorously for at least 10-15 seconds. Scrub all surfaces including; in between and around fingers, the back of each hand, fingertips, thumbs, and wrists. Rinse thoroughly under running water. Pat hands dry with paper towel. Turn off water using same towel to prevent recontamination.

The following reminder from the Henry the Hand Foundation, the brain-child of Ohio family practitioner Dr. Will Sawyer sums up the awareness needed and the action required for an A+ in disease prevention

Many people are very concerned about the and#8220;transmissionand#8221; of disease during the upcoming holidays. Please remember your hands and#8220;giveand#8221; you disease. And and#8220;our eyes, nose and mouth are the only portals of entry into our body for the Flu, flu-like and Novel H1N1 infections!and#8221; –

Imagine the result by changing this habit, No Pandemic! No economic disaster. It compliments every vaccine campaign and reduces risk. It is up to you to protect your family, friends and co-workers. Donand#8217;t touch the T-zone, it could save your life.

Especially during flu season and ideally year round, make hand hygiene and hand awareness a habit for you and your family. Wash your hands and reduce your risk of sharing germs with those around you and help prevent infection and illness.

For more information on the seasonal flu or H1N1 visit http://www.tfhd.com.

and#8212; Information from the World Health Organization Guidelines on Hand Hygiene (2009)