According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hundreds of millions of people around the world are suffering from health care associated infections. At least 50 percent of these could be avoided by caregivers cleaning their hands properly during key moments of patient care.
This is why we celebrate the World Hand Hygiene Day on 5th May every year. The event is sponsored by WHO and is designed to encourage patients and family members to work together with health workers in their bid to practice good hand hygiene.
What is Hand Hygiene?
In simple words, hand hygiene refers to the process of cleaning your hands for the purpose of eliminating dirt and disease-causing microorganisms. There’s also medical hand hygiene, which describes hygiene practices that involves the use of medicine to curb the spread of diseases. Ideally, washing hands is meant to kill off pathogens (such as viruses and bacteria) and chemicals that can lead to disease or personal harm.
Two of the most important fields where hand hygiene is particularly vital are the food and medicine industries. But this does not exempt the general public from exercising good hand hygiene practices. In fact, when you neglect to wash your hands before touching your mouth, nose, or eyes, you risk being infected with respiratory diseases like the common cold or influenza.
Concept of World Hand Hygiene Day
Certain health-care related infections that are often life threatening can be prevented by simply adopting positive hand washing practices. World Hand Hygiene Day aims to minimize health care associated infections worldwide by educating health care workers on the importance of cleaning their hands.
The theme for 2017’s World Hand Hygiene Day is: “Fight Antibiotic resistance – it’s in your hands”. Both the public and private sectors are encouraged to participate in the campaign. The event is mainly centred at improving hand hygiene practices in every surgical service through the continuum of care, from outpatient surgical services, to operating theatres and surgical wards.
What you can do on World Hand Hygiene Day?
There are several things you can do to contribute to World Hand Hygiene Day 2017. Since the theme is based on health care settings, here are some suggestions from the World Health Organization:
- Show your commitment to this cause by spreading the message via social media
- Organize a hand sanitizing rally in your district
As a general rule of thumb, you should always wash your hands after using the toilet, changing nappies or toileting children, and before handling, preparing, and eating food. Faeces, in particular, are an important source of germs such as norovirus, E. coli 0157, and Salmonella, which can cause diarrhoea and even spread certain respiratory infections like hand-foot-mouth disease and adenovirus. Apart from changing diapers or using the toilet, these germs can spread in less obvious ways such as handling raw meats which have invisible traces of animal faeces on them. One gram of human poop can contain as many as a trillion germs. Once these germs get onto your hands, it is very easy to pass them on to another person and make them sick.
It is equally important to emphasis hand washing during periods of family illnesses like colds, diarrhoea, vomiting, and coughs in order to minimize the spread of infection. Encourage your kids to wash their hands from an early age to enforce a lifetime of good habits. It is estimated that approximately 1.8 million children below the age of 5 die every year from pneumonia and diarrheal diseases, making these two villains the world’s top killers of young children. Hand washing with soap can prevent the spread of diarrhoea in 1 out of every three young children, as well as respiratory infections in 1 out of 5 children. Regardless of this, most people tend to ignore the importance of using soap while washing their hands. This is why it is important to emphasis hand washing education and provide access to soap in schools.
Preventing sickness through proper hand hygiene can in turn reduce the amount of antibiotics people use, as well as the chances of developing antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are usually prescribed for respiratory infections and diarrhoea related sicknesses, but are often unnecessary. In fact, overusing antibiotics is the single most significant cause of antibiotic resistance in the world. From this end, World Hand Hygiene Day is a very important date on the calendar, serving to remind people of the importance of washing their hands properly. WHO will be using both #handhygiene and #antibioticresistance – remember to join the conversation on 5 May.