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Hand-Washing Key to Stopping Spread of Disease
Date:12/30/2011

THURSDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) -- There are many ways to prevent spreading germs and disease, but experts say one of the easiest ways is also one of the most important: proper hand-washing.

This is especially true during the holidays when people travel and get together for parties and other celebrations, researchers at the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety noted.

"Hand-washing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infections. You can spread certain 'germs' (a general term for microbes such as viruses and bacteria) by touching another person even casually. You can also catch germs when you touch contaminated objects or surfaces and then touch your face," the group explained in a news release from the Society for Women's Health Research.

When people don't wash their hands they can spread a number of illnesses, including the common cold, which accounts for roughly 22 million missed school days and 20 million sick days from work, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Although there is no way to completely get rid of germs, frequent hand-washing can significantly limit the spread of viruses, bacteria and other microbes. Experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) caution, however, that hand-washing only prevents the spread of germs if it's done properly.

The CDC offers the following hand-washing guidelines:

  • Place hands under clean, running water.
  • Once wet, add soap and rub hands together until suds form.
  • Scrub on every surface for at least 20 seconds (the amount of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice), including both sides, between fingers and under fingernails.
  • Rinse hands again under running water and dry with a clean dry towel or air-dry.

Of course, hands should be washed when they are obviously dirty, but to avoid getting sick, the CDC suggests that hands should alw
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