PEOPLE across Limerick are being urged to practice good hand hygiene as part of a World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative aimed at preventing the spread of infection.
Today marks the WHO’s global Hand Hygiene Day, and with Covid-19 in full swing, never has it been more important to ensure this is adhered to.
Prof Martin Cormican, the HSE’s national lead for antibiotic resistance and infection control says: “Most years when Hand Hygiene day comes around we have to ask ourselves how do find a fresh way to talk to people about the importance of hand hygiene in preventing infection. This year, because of Covid-19, it is all very different. Preventing infection with COVID-19 is now on everyone’s mind.”
He said since the onset of coronavirus, many people are using disposable gloves in every day lives.
“So, one of our key messages this year for hand hygiene day is that hand hygiene is vital but we do not recommend using gloves while doing your shopping or when you are out and about. If there are bugs on your gloves those bugs often end up on your hands when you take the gloves off and they can very easily end up in your mouth, nose and eyes. It’s much better to clean your hands regularly and properly. Even in special settings like hospitals where gloves are valuable there is still a need to perform hand hygiene when the gloves come off. In hospitals gloves are single use for single patient care tasks,” he said.
Some 96% of people are now washing their hands more often to prevent a Covid-19 infection.
“The research also shows that 90% of people who are looking ahead say that they will continue to wash their hands frequently after the pandemic is over. We want people to keep on going with their hand hygiene, help your children to learn good hand hygiene and help us to stop the spread of Covid-19 and other infections,” Prof Cormican added.
He advised people to wash their hands properly and often, in particular after coughing and sneezing, before and after preparing food or touching an open sore or cut.
Also, remember to wash your hands after using the toilet, or changing a child’s nappy, or if you were in contact with someone who has a fever or respiratory symptoms.
He advised people to wash their hands before and after being on public transport, before and after being in a crowd, especially indoors – although with the lockdown, one would question why anyone would be in a crowd – as well as entering and leaving buildings, touching animals or animal waste, and before or after visiting someone in hospital of a residential setting.
“Regular use of a hand moisturiser will protect your hands from the drying effects of hand hygiene products. If you have dry skin or a skin condition, apply moisturiser after washing and drying your hands,” the HSE man added.
“The goal is to find a good balance between keeping your hands clean when it’s most important without limiting your enjoyment of life. Particularly important times to wash your hand are when you have been in contact with a person or an animal with an infection, when you get back to your home from being out and about or at work, especially if your work involves a lot of contact with people or animals,” Prof Cormican added.
He also issued a warning about the use of technoloy without washing one’s hands.
“Computers, phones and mobiles are a constant in lives, we can’t work without them. But how clean are they? Research has shown that PCs, keyboards, phones are full of bacteria – a mouse has an average of 260 bacteria per centimetre squared, a keyboard has 511 and the mouthpiece of a telephone has an impressive 3,895! Make sure you clean your tech equipment even if you are working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.” he cautioned.
“The toilet is fine - but watch out for the handles, taps and air hand dryer. The real danger is not the toilet but the handles and taps. Don’t touch the toilet seat with your hands if it’s visibly dirty. Our skin acts as a protective barrier when we use the toilet - it is the largest organ in the human body. Drying your hands with paper towel will reduce the bacterial count by 45 – 60% on your hands. However, using a hand dryer will increase the bacteria on your hands by up to 255% because it blows out bacteria already living in the, conveniently, warm moist environment.”
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