Monday, October 6, 2014

Prevent spread of new viruses through hand hygiene

With the spread of the ebola virus and Enterovirus D68 in the news, and flu season just beginning, it is time to again focus on prevention of the spread of disease, especially through hand hygiene.
At a press conference on ebola, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said “It’s a virus that’s easy to kill by washing your hands….”



The CDC says hand hygiene is a simple thing and is the best way to prevent infection and illness in the workplace. While frequent hand washing is not a guarantee that employees won't become sick, it can certainly lessen the chances.
A hand washing survey conducted by the Bradley Corporation revealed that the majority of Americans aren't washing their hands long enough. 57 percent of survey respondents estimate they wash for just 5 to 15 seconds. In fact, the CDC recommends washing hands for at least 20 seconds to allow enough time to remove and rinse away germs.
Proper technique
Speak with your facilities or maintenance staff to make sure your restrooms have plenty of liquid soap (not bars) and clean paper towels or are equipped with hot-air hand dryers.
When washing hands with soap and water, CDC says employees should:
  • Wet hands with clean running water (warm water if available) and apply soap.
  • Rub hands together to make lather and scrub all surfaces. Pay particular attention to fingers, fingertips, and under fingernails where germs love to breed. Palms are heavy germ zones, too.
  • Continue rubbing hands for 15 seconds to 20 seconds. (This is about the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice.)
  • Rinse hands well under running water.
  • Dry hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If drying hands with a paper towel, use it to turn off the faucet.
Hand sanitizers
Also consider providing alcohol-based sanitizers in work areas throughout your facility so that employees can clean hands quickly and frequently without having to leave the work area. Alcohol-based hand rubs significantly reduce the number of germs on skin and are fast acting.
The correct technique for using hand sanitizers is:
  • Apply product to the palm of one hand.
  • Rub hands together.
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of hands and fingers until hands are dry.

Environmental microbiologist Charles Gerba, PhD, advises employers to train workers to think proactively about disease control. That means, unfortunately, assuming that everyone is potentially infectious, that the environment is germ- and virus-laden, that workers are not using the best personal hygiene practices, and that the maintenance crew is not doing its job.
This makes the individual responsible for washing, wiping, and overall vigilance regarding their hands and their work area—and the spread of disease.