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To Protect Yourself, Wash Those Germs Away
Date:1/3/2009

Doctors say it's the best way to keep colds and flu at bay

FRIDAY, Jan. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Of all the advice your mother gave you, there's one tidbit that doctors stand by as the best way to keep yourself healthy:

Wash your hands.

Keeping hands free of germs is one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep from catching the flu, a cold or some other infectious disease, experts say.

"Disease transmission is hand-to-hand combat, at least for infectious diseases," said Dr. Thomas Weida, professor of family and community medicine at Penn State University's Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa. "By washing your hands regularly, you decrease the spread of disease."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists hand-washing as one of the top recommended ways to avoid catching the flu.

Hand-washing also can keep you from becoming infected with bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli, said Marcia Patrick, director of infection prevention and control for MultiCare, a health system in Tacoma, Wash. That's critical because the CDC says an estimated 76 million Americans are stricken with a food-borne illness each year, and 5,000 die from their illness.

"All the different things we touch in the regular course of our day can contain germs: grocery cart handles, elevator buttons, keyboards, telephones," added Patrick, who's also a spokeswoman for the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

Those germs transfer to your hands, and from your hands get into the body through the eyes, nose or mouth.

"A lot of upper respiratory infections are caused by hands that got contaminated by someone else's upper respiratory discharges," Patrick said.

Basic hand-washing involving soap and water is a relatively simple affair, but the order in which you do things is important. Start with warm water and wet your hands. After that, d
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