Wash Your Hands For In­fec­tion Con­trol

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - HEALTH -

A SGlobal Hand­wash­ing Day is ob­served to­mor­row, proper hand hy­giene has been de­scribed as one of the most im­por­tant in­fec­tion con­trol ac­tiv­i­ties.

Sci­en­tific ev­i­dence sup­ports the ob­ser­va­tion that if prop­erly im­ple­mented, hand hy­giene alone can sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the risk of cross-trans­mis­sion of in­fec­tion in health­care fa­cil­i­ties.

Dr. Ijeoma Agbo, a Pub­lic Health Physi­cian with Save the Chil­dren In­ter­na­tional, a non-govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion, said wash­ing of hands with soap is very im­por­tant in pre­vent­ing di­ar­rhoea and other dis­eases, es­pe­cially those with faeco-oral (from fae­ces to mouth) mode of trans­mis­sion.

She ex­plained that when hands are prop­erly washed with soap, un­der run­ning wa­ter and by vig­or­ously rub­bing hands to­gether, pathogens that cause dis­eases are me­chan­i­cally re­moved and con­tam­i­nat­ing fungi in­hab­it­ing the hands are chem­i­cally killed.

She said: “Wash­ing of hands is very im­por­tant, es­pe­cially in chil­dren be­cause they are very play­ful, they go to school and play around. There­fore, it is very easy for them to pick up germs. We ad­vise chil­dren to wash their hands af­ter us­ing the toi­lets. We teach them to wash their hands be­fore and af­ter eat­ing food. We teach them to tell their moth­ers at home to wash their hands af­ter chang­ing di­a­pers for their ba­bies, be­cause most moth­ers, af­ter chang­ing their ba­bies’ di­a­pers, pre­pare food for the fam­ily with­out wash­ing their hands. In the process, they trans­mit germs to the fam­ily.”

She noted that in the 2015 United Na­tions Chil­dren Fund (UNICEF) re­port, about 750, 000 Nige­rian chil­dren die be­fore their fifth birth­day and dis­eases im­pli­cated in­clude those that can be pre­vented by hand wash­ing.

Agbo said: “Th­ese in­clude di­ar­rhoea, which is the sec­ond most com­mon cause of death in this age group. Other dis­eases that can be pre­vented by proper hand wash in­clude com­mon cold, con­junc­tivi­tis, ty­phoid fever, hep­ati­tis A and pin­worm in­fec­tion. This un­der­scores the im­por­tance of hand wash­ing in main­tain­ing good hy­giene, health and well­be­ing.

“It is im­por­tant to note that wash­ing hands with soap is not the only means of pre­vent­ing di­ar­rhoea. Ac­cess to clean and potable wa­ter, good san­i­ta­tion, adequate nu­tri­tion and vac­ci­na­tion with Ro­tavirus vac­cine are also proven ways of avert­ing sick­ness and deaths due to di­ar­rhoea. Thus, while the peo­ple play their role by en­sur­ing good hy­gienic prac­tices, gov­ern­ment at all lev­els must con­tinue to en­sure adequate and clean pub­lic wa­ter sup­ply, strengthen im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­gramme, es­pe­cially by keep­ing to na­tional plan of in­tro­duc­ing Ro­tavirus vac­cine into rou­tine im­mu­ni­sa­tion sched­ule in 2018.”

She ex­plained that proper hand wash­ing could re­duce up to 30 per­cent episodes of di­ar­rhoea and a lit­tle less pro­por­tion of res­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tions.

“How­ever, de­spite var­i­ous aware­ness and sen­si­ti­sa­tion pro­grammes, many Nige­ri­ans do not wash their hands ap­pro­pri­ately, and fre­quently,” she said. “The rea­sons for this is com­plex and in­clude lack of ac­cess to clean wa­ter and soap, cul­tural prac­tices, re­li­gious be­liefs, un­aware­ness of its ben­e­fits and lack­adaisi­cal na­ture to is­sues of good hy- giene. Most peo­ple only wash their hands be­fore eat­ing and in the cus­tom­ar­ily im­proper way of jointly dip­ping their hands in a bowl of wa­ter.

“This hand-wash­ing ap­proach of joint dip­ping of hands in a bowl can trans­fer, rather than pre­vent dis­eases. The best way to wash your hand is by ap­ply­ing soap, vig­or­ously rub­bing both hands and wash­ing the soap off un­der run­ning wa­ter.

“It is sad to note that af­ter Ebola virus dis­ap­peared from Nige­ria, most of the wa­ter sinks and soap placed at pub­lic places, such as schools and of­fices, have also dis­ap­peared or left unat­tended. What is re­quired is a pos­i­tive at­ti­tu­di­nal change to­wards good hy­gienic prac­tices and re­al­i­sa­tion that just as in the days of Ebola virus, hand wash­ing can still pre­vent many deadly dis­eases.

“With about 10 per­cent of deaths in un­der-5 Nige­ria chil­dren linked to di­ar­rhoea, ac­cord­ing to the same 2015 UNICEF re­port, about 75, 000 Nige­rian chil­dren die an­nu­ally due to di­ar­rhoea, which trans­lates to more than 200 chil­dren dy­ing daily due to same dis­ease. This is as tragic as one lo­cal air­line filled with chil­dren crash­ing ev­ery day in Nige­ria, with­out a sur­vivor, when about 30 per­cent of th­ese chil­dren can be saved by proper hand wash­ing with soap.”

For­mer Pres­i­dent, As­so­ci­a­tion of Res­i­dent Doc­tors in La­gos Uni­ver­sity Teach­ing Hos­pi­tal (LUTH), Dr. Omo­jowolo Olubunmi, said reg­u­lar and proper hand wash­ing is per­haps the most im­por­tant and ef­fec­tive pub­lic health means of pre­vent­ing the spread of dis­eases.

He added that many com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, such as cholera, ty­phoid fever and po­liomyeli­tis, among oth­ers, are trans­mit­ted via the faeco-oral route. Reg­u­larly wash­ing hands with soap and wa­ter is the best way to re­duce the num­ber of germs in most sit­u­a­tions.

Olubunmi said: “If soap and wa­ter are not avail­able, an al­co­hol-based hand sani­tiser that con­tains at least 60 per cent al­co­hol can be used. Al­co­hol-based hand sani­tis­ers can quickly re­duce the num­ber of germs on hands in some sit­u­a­tions, but sani­tis­ers are not as ef­fec­tive as proper hand wash­ing.

“Gen­er­ally, the act of hand wash­ing is low among Nige­ri­ans, and even health­care per­son­nel. Only about 30 to 40 per­cent of Nige­ri­ans wash their hands reg­u­larly, though this may in­crease to about 60 per­cent shortly be­fore eat­ing. “The sit­u­a­tion, where hand wash­ing is very es­sen­tial, in­clude, but not lim­ited to be­fore, dur­ing, and af­ter pre­par­ing food, be­fore eat­ing food, be­fore and af­ter tend­ing to a sick per­son, be­fore and af­ter treat­ing a cut or wound, af­ter us­ing the toi­let, af­ter chang­ing di­a­pers or clean­ing up a child, who has used the toi­let, af­ter blow­ing your nose, cough­ing, or sneez­ing, af­ter touch­ing an an­i­mal, an­i­mal feed, or an­i­mal waste, af­ter han­dling pet food or pet treats and af­ter touch­ing garbage.

“Proper hand-wash­ing, as rec­om­mended by the United States of Amer­ica Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion, in­clude the fol­low­ing steps:

“Wet your hands with run­ning wa­ter and ap­ply soap. Rub your hands to­gether to make lather. Scrub well for at least 20 sec­onds. Pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to your wrists, the backs of your hands, be­tween your fin­gers, and un­der your fin­ger­nails. Rinse your hands well un­der run­ning wa­ter. Use a clean towel to dry your hands, or air-dry your hands.”

PHOTO: GOOGLE

Chil­dren wash­ing their hands to mark the day By Paul Adun­woke

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