Are Your Hands Making You Sick?
During National Handwashing Awareness Week (December 4 - 10), DPH is
reminding Georgians that handwashing saves lives and is the first
step to prevention against the common cold, hepatitis A, meningitis,
influenza and diarrhea-causing viruses.
Your hands could hold the clues to the illnesses or symptoms
you experience on a daily basis. You may not wash your hands as
much as you should in order to avoid spreading diseases or
contracting an illness. According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, handwashing is important to keeping you
from spreading or coming in contact with infectious diseases.
Even though many people know the benefits of it, one out of
three Americans still skip handwashing after going to the
bathroom. In a survey of junior high and high school boys and
girls, only 58 percent of girls and 48 percent of boys washed
their hands after using the restroom.
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is all too
familiar with the impact of infectious diseases in public
settings. DPH is reminding employees and their families that
handwashing saves lives and is the first step to prevention
against the common cold, hepatitis A, meningitis, influenza and
diarrhea-causing viruses. During National Handwashing Awareness
Week (December 4 – 10), DPH is promoting the basic practices for
handwashing and hand awareness: Wash your hands when they are
dirty; do not cough in your hands (cover your mouth with your
forearm); do not sneeze in your hands (use a tissue or forearm);
and do not put your fingers in your eyes, nose or mouth. Play it
safe and remember to always wash your hands and to keep your
hands away from your face.
Every day, we take for granted that our activities at work,
school, home or in the community are not lurking with germs that
can make us sick. We are exposed to items contaminated with
millions of germs each time we touch elevator buttons, door
knobs, toilet handles, ATM buttons, cell phones, remote
controls, computer keyboards, money and other surfaces.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, the human
influenza virus can survive on surfaces for up to eight hours—a
fact that supports the importance of proper handwashing.
Research by health officials confirms that handwashing is one of
the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal
diseases and pneumonia, which are responsible for 3.5 million
deaths worldwide in children under age five every year.
It is not unusual to see coworkers or individuals carrying
around containers of hand sanitizer in public settings. In fact,
some churches have started placing hand sanitizer in their pews
due to the personal contact such as handshaking and hugging that
occurs in these congregations. CDC recommends the use of
alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water are unavailable.
It is impossible to avoid touching all the surfaces where germs
can exist, so make up your mind to practice regular, proper
handwashing everyday. Do not skip washing your hands with soap
and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer no matter how busy you
get at work or home. You could be saving your life and the lives
of countless other people. Most of us learned as youngsters to
wash our hands to avoid sickness. As adults, we are the best
defenders against contact with the germs in our environment.
-Story by Connie F. Smith, DPH Communications
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