Handwashing: Are You Doing it Right? WHO Disagrees
APR 22, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
As it turns out, there’s a wrong way to wash your hands.
Recently, a study, published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, examined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) three-step handwashing method in comparison to the World Health Organization's (WHO) six-step method. The randomized control trial found the six-step method to be more effective in reducing the bacterial count on an individual's hands.
Although the CDC and WHO each have a different suggested method for ‘proper’ handwashing, they both agree that handwashing is the most effective way to ward off infections both in and outside of hospital settings. The CDC states that regular handwashing is a “do-it-yourself vaccine” that can hinder the spread of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections, as well as food-borne infections. Additionally, WHO states that “hands are the main pathways of germ transmission during health care.”
Dorothy McCoy, PharmD, BCPS-AQ ID, Clinical Associate Professor at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University and Clinical Pharmacist, Infectious Diseases Hackensack University Medical Center, highlights the importance of handwashing when she explains why the norovirus spreads so efficiently.
When to Wash Your Hands
The CDC recommends that individuals should wash their hands before and after:
Caring for a sick individual
Treating a wound
Changing diapers or handling feces of any kind (including animals’)
Coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose
In addition, WHO recommends that healthcare providers should wash their hands before and after:
Touching a patient
Touching patient surroundings
Performing cleaning/aseptic procedures
Not only is it important for healthcare providers to wash their hands after touching a patient (to reduce the risk of contracting a disease or infection), but it’s important to do so before touching a patient to reduce the risk of exposing the patient to additional infection.
According to reports in multiple media outlets, clinicians on the hurricane-ravaged island have already identified at least 10 cases of a rare water-borne bacterial infection, and they warn of the potential for more.
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