Hand washing is the easiest, most effective way to prevent the spread of infection and disease — especially in healthcare settings.
Despite this, millions of patients around the world still suffer with healthcare-associated infections (HAI), which can lead to debilitating physical and psychological problems, and sometimes death. And what’s more — over half of these infections could have been prevented if healthcare workers and caregivers had simply practiced proper hand hygiene.
According to the World Health Organization, “The most common infections are urinary tract and surgical site infections, pneumonia and infections of the bloodstream. Of every 100 hospitalized patients, at least 7 in developed and 10 in developing countries will acquire a health care-associated infection. Among critically ill and vulnerable patients in intensive care units, that figure rises to around 30 per 100.”
To put a global spotlight on this issue, the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are celebrating World Hand Hygiene Day to encourage better hand hygiene practices in healthcare settings.
So far, more than 15,700 health facilities in 168 countries have registered their commitment to good hand hygiene as a part of the WHO global campaign: “SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands.” The program has been up and running since 2009 and 12 new countries have joined in the past year.
When should healthcare workers wash their hands?
The WHO’s Clean Care is Safer Care Program states that when working with patients, hand hygiene should be performed using an alcohol-based rub or by hand washing with foaming hand soap and water. There are a number of situations when healthcare workers should be washing:
- Before touching a patient
- Before clean and aseptic procedures (e.g., inserting devices such as catheters)
- After contact with body fluids
- After touching a patient
- After touching patient surroundings
As we mark Hand Hygiene Day, it’s important for all of us to spread the message of hand hygiene at home, at work and in healthcare facilities.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons