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Data on American Dirty Hands

Aug 17, 2007
Good hand washing is your first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses. Beside the common cold, more serious illnesses such as meningitis, bronchiolitis, influenza, hepatitis A, and most types of infectious diarrhea can be stopped with the simple act of washing your hands. The Soap and Detergent Association latest survey found that 40 percent of American workers wash their hands neither often enough nor long enough.

Here are the percentages who admitted they might not wash their hands properly in these situations:

(1) After sneezing or coughing: 37%
(2) After handling animals or pets: 27%
(3) Before eating or handling food: 10%
(4) After going to the toilet: 7%

A bit more than three in 10 said they would not skip or skimp on hand washing in any of those situations. But the remaining 69% did not make that clean-hands claim. It is not that Americans do not know hand washing is important. Two-thirds said hand washing is the best way to stop the spread of germs, and more than three-quarters said they had become more aware of hygiene importance in the last few years.

If you need to brush up on your hand-washing, here are some tips from the CDC:

(1) Wash your hands with soap and clean running water for 20 seconds.
(2) Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap.
(3) Use warm water if available.
(4) Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all hand surfaces.
(5) Continue rubbing hands for 20 seconds -- the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice.
(6) Rinse hands well under running water.
(7) Dry hands using a paper towel or air dryer.
(8) If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet.

Germs - such as bacteria and viruses - can be transmitted several different ways, especially by touching dirty hands or changing dirty diapers. Other ways germs spread include:

(1) through contaminated water and food
(2) through droplets released during a cough or a sneeze
(3) through contaminated surfaces
(4) through body fluids of a sick person

When to wash your hands:

(1) each time you use the restroom.
(2) before and after staff meetings if food is served.
(3) after scanning newspapers or magazines in your break room.
(4) before and after your lunch.
(5) after using your-friend keyboard or tools.
(6) before and after a meet and greet activity in your office.
(7) when using shared office equipment like faxes, phones, etc.

If kids pick up germs from one of these sources, they can unknowingly become infected simply by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. And once they are infected, it is usually just a matter of time before the whole family comes down with the same illness. Do not underestimate the power of hand washing! The few seconds you spend at the sink with your child could save you trips to the doctor office.
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