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WHO launched the International Hand Hygiene Day in 2009
For the eighth time, the International Hand Hygiene Day is taking place this year. The campaign day initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2009 is intended to draw attention every year to the importance of washing hands. This is one of the most important infection prevention measures and can significantly reduce the risk of diseases such as diarrhea or flu. In an interview with the "Augsburger Allgemeine", an expert explains what is important for proper hand hygiene.
In most cases, diseases are transmitted via the hands
"Please go wash your hands first": Even small children are taught to wash their hands before eating or after playing in the garden. This is usually taken for granted in adulthood, but some people are not quite as careful with hand hygiene. This can have nasty consequences, because WHO estimates that up to 80 percent of all infectious diseases are transmitted via the hands. As Monika Schulze, senior consultant for hygiene at the Augsburg Clinic, it is not possible to determine exactly how many infections are caused by germs on the hands in the private sector. But in hospitals, they would be the main cause of the transmission of diseases, the expert told the newspaper.
Thousands of bacteria live on the hands
According to the expert, a square centimeter of skin is colonized by ten million microorganisms, with about 150 different types of bacteria on the hands alone. Many of them are harmless and even important because the tiny microorganisms are part of the natural skin flora and protect the skin like a "protective shield" from diseases. However, if this is injured or our immune system is weakened, the microorganisms can get into the deeper layers of the skin and cause an infection. According to Schulze, flu, a cold or a cold, for example, were often transmitted via the hands, the latter even more often in this way than via the so-called “droplet infection” when speaking. In addition, diarrhea pathogens such as Salmonella or the norovirus often passed on to the hands.
"The knowledge of simple infection protection measures and their consistent implementation in everyday life helps to stay healthy," said Dr. Heidrun Thaiss from the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) in a message on the occasion of the World Hand Hygiene Day. "Thorough hand hygiene is essential and a suitable first measure to prevent the spread of pathogens," said the head of the BzgA.
Soap for at least 20 seconds
In order to kill the harmful pathogens on the hands, regular and thorough washing of the hands is the most important hygiene rule. Soap should be used because it removes dirt and microbes from the skin better than water alone. The duration also plays an important role, because if the fingers are only held briefly under the water jet, there is hardly any benefit and most pathogens remain on the palm of the hand. Instead, the hands should be properly wet with warm water and rubbed carefully with soap for at least 20 seconds. It is important that the spaces between fingers, fingertips and nails are also cleaned. After rinsing, the hands should be dried thoroughly in all areas. A disposable towel is recommended on public toilets, according to Schulze it is advisable at home that everyone has their own towel.
Disinfection of the hands is usually not necessary
However, disinfection is usually not necessary, because “our body is designed to deal with germs. That strengthens the immune system, ”explains Schulze. In addition, the special agents also work against the beneficial bacteria and the natural protective film of the skin, which we need as protection against pathogens. The situation is different, however, when a flu wave or a gastrointestinal virus "goes around". Then, according to the expert, disinfection of the hands could be useful for a limited time. The same applies to people with a weakened immune system, but this should be discussed with the doctor in advance.
Pathogens are particularly common on doorknobs and smartphones
Washing hands is so important precisely because you can avoid the pathogens anywhere. They are everywhere on everyday objects, especially where many hands alternate. Door handles and shopping cart handles are e.g. Schulze explains that there are places where a large number of pathogens can be found, as well as on smartphones and tablets. For most people, however, these are harmless because a healthy immune system can ward off potential “attackers” well. Therefore, the smartphone or the handset in the office would not have to be disinfected regularly. “You mostly only use your smartphone yourself. That means that there are only bacteria from your own skin flora and they don't bother us,” says Schulze. (No)