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Health Watch: break out the soap and suds for World Hand Hygiene Day

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 4:57 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - May 5th of each year is the World Health Organization’s “World Hand Hygiene Day.” This campaign exists to help maintain global awareness of the importance of hand hygiene, and to “bring people together” in support of hand hygiene improvement.

Kate Messenger, Director of Occupational Health with Foundation Health Partners told us, “It’s 20 seconds to save a life. Washing your hands is literally the most important thing you can do. It minimizes transfer of germs, bacteria, all sorts of respiratory illnesses, diarrhea, GI bugs, and it’s just the number one way to protect you, and your family, and all the people around you.”

According to the CDC, regular and thorough hand washing can reduce respiratory illnesses like colds and the flu by 23%. Messenger said “40% [reduction] in any GI bug or diarrhea reduction in frequently washing your hands, [and] 16-20% reduction in absences from school and work with frequently washing your hands. It’s really important to attend school, attend work, be healthy, have a healthy GI tract, and reduce those colds and flus.”

Simply rinsing or performing a cursory wash significantly reduces the effectiveness of hand washing, and is an invitation to all manner of disease. “When you wash your hands take 20 seconds... get them wet, turn off the water to conserve on water, get a good lather on for 20 seconds. Hum the ABCs or Happy Birthday in your head. Don’t forget under your fingernails and the backs of your hands,” said Messenger.

This World Hand Hygiene Day in particular holds more significance than usual due to the ongoing presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, with frequent hand washing remaining one of the most effective first lines of defense.

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