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What We Can Learn from National Handwashing Awareness Week

Posted by Doreen Dann, RN, BSN, MHA, December 5, 2019

The first week of December serves as National Handwashing Awareness Week. While the idea of dedicating an entire awareness campaign to handwashing seems silly on the surface, regularly washing your hands is actually one of the most important steps you can take toward protecting both personal and public health.

Just check out these statistics:

  • 80 percent of communicable diseases are transferred by person-to-person contact (touching each other or communal items like shopping carts and door handles)
  • Pneumonia, cold, and flu are spread by simply touching your face with dirty hands
  • Pneumonia is the number one cause of death in children
  • Washing your hands several times per day reduces your odds of contracting diarrhea by 40 percent
  • Flushing a toilet (with the lid up) spreads bacteria and viruses over six square meters
  • Sinks in public bathrooms are 90 percent covered with bacteria from flushing toilets
  • Studies show that people who regularly wash their hands take 24 percent fewer sick days from work due to respiratory illness, and 51 percent fewer sick days due to gastrointestinal illness
  • More than 25 percent of women don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom
  • More than 50 percent of men don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom

Bacteria and viruses on our hands quickly transfer to any surface we touch. Then, someone else touches that surface, touches their face (or eats food that they’ve touched), and the result is illness that quickly spreads through a community.

Wash your hands after using the bathroom, and after preparing foods (both raw meat and fresh produce can carry germs).

Washing your hands several times per day will greatly reduce the transmission of most illnesses, and will protect both you and the rest of your community. In particular, we can all do our part to protect children and the immune-compromised.

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