I know you’ve heard that proper handwashing has immense health benefits. It prevents illnesses and the spread of germs and harmful bacteria to others. Good hand hygiene has been recommended as one of the most effective strategies for infection prevention and control by both the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
Health experts said frequent handwashing with soap and running water is the best way to protect against the new coronavirus, which has claimed at least 1,016 lives in China and affected some 42,600 people – mostly in and around Wuhan.
Now, a new study has found that improving the rates of handwashing at airports can reduce the spread of infectious diseases. So, if you’re planning to travel abroad this season, maintaining hand hygiene at airports can help you steer clear of infectious diseases in general, including the deadly coronavirus and the flu.
Here’s what research says about handwashing
According to the research published in the journal Risk Analysis, only 20 per cent of travellers in airports have clean hands, which means these people wash their hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. The other 80 per cent of people in airports don’t keep their hands clean, potentially contaminating everything they touch with whatever germs they may be carrying.
Noting findings from a previous study, the authors also said 70 per cent of people wash their hands after using a toilet, while the other 30 per cent don’t. Of those who wash their hands, only 50 per cent do it right, spending the recommended 15-20 seconds washing.
“Eliciting an increase in hand-hygiene is a challenge, but new approaches in education, awareness, and social-media nudges have proven to be effective in hand-washing engagement,” said Professor Christos Nicolaides, one of the study authors.
The researchers found that improving handwashing at all of the world’s airports to triple that rate (from 20 to 60 per cent) would have the greatest impact on slowing global disease spread by almost 70 per cent. The authors noted that this study is one of the first to quantitatively assess the effectiveness of better hand hygiene as a way to reduce the risk of a global epidemic or pandemic.
The bottom line is, handwashing is cheap, easy and the best way to prevent infections. It is still the first line of defence for individuals to implement. Hand hygiene is the most effective way to control disease spread.