We've all heard people say 'I won't kiss you, I've got a cold'. But a report just published warns that we may be far more at risk of passing on an infection by shaking someone's hand than in sharing a kiss.
A group of hygiene experts from the United States and the UK have published the first detailed report on hand hygiene in the home and community, rather than in hospital and healthcare settings. Their findings are published in the American Journal of Infection Control. They say that, if we want to avoid catching flu or tummy bugs, or protect ourselves and others from organisms such as MRSA, salmonella or C. difficile, then we have to start in our own homes, by paying greater attention to good hand hygiene. They also warn that, in the event of a flu pandemic, good hand hygiene will be the first line of defence during the early critical period before mass vaccination becomes available. This new report follows on from a study published last month in the British Medical Journal which indicated that physical barriers, such as regular handwashing and wearing masks, gloves and gowns may be more effective than drugs in preventing the spread of respiratory viruses such as influenza and SARS.
Good hygiene at home prevents organisms spreading from one family member to another. By reducing the number of carriers in the community, the likelihood of infections being carried into health care facilities by new patients and visitors is reduced. Good hygiene at home also means fewer infections, which means fewer patients demanding antibiotics from the GP, and fewer resistant strains developing and circulating in the community.
Cold and flu viruses can be spread via the hands so that family members become infected when they rub their nose or eyes. The report details how germs that cause stomach infections such as salmonella, campylobacter and norovirus can also circulate directly from person to person via our hands. If we put our fingers in our mouth
|Contact: Sally Bloomfield|
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine