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It has become very apparent over the last few years that hand hygiene is of paramount importance both in the health care industry as well as the food industry.

Talking to a nurse educator in the last few weeks, she said “When I was trained as a nurse in the late 1970’s the first thing I was taught was how to take a pulse and blood pressure. With the nurses that I am training now, the first thing they are taught is how to wash their hands.” This training is reinforced week in and week out for the first year of nursing education.

Why is the washing of hands so important? The basic answer is that germs are carried on the skin, and are transmitted from place to place, person to person, area to area. These germs can be in the form of bacteria or viral. It is often thought that influenza is spread through droplet contamination of the air, but the most common cause is through touch. This can be as simple as touching a surface that has been in contact the virus. The simplest method of preventing the spreading of the virus is to wash your hands.

The Infectious Diseases Department of Austin health in Heidelberg in Victoria, Australia did a controlled experiment with H1N1, human influenza virus. They contaminated 20 of their workers’ hands with the virus and asked them to use prescribed methods for washing their hands that went from no hand washing to using different products, such as soap and water, alcohol wipes and 2 commercially available alcohol based hand cleaners. They found that with no hand washing there was a minimal reduction in the virus on the skin after 60 minutes. The other methods of hand hygiene were all very effective, with soap and water being the most effective way of removing the virus.
Does this change of how we approach hand hygiene? It should.

How do I check that I am washing my hands correctly? GlitterBug is a product that is rubbed onto the hands, washed off. A UV torch is then shone onto the hands and you can see where you have missed washing. This product educates how to wash your hands properly.

To stop spreading disease is it as simple as washing your hands properly?