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Hand Hygiene Can Help Defeat Winter

Each year at around this time, we are warned of the dangers of influenza (‘flu’). The strain may vary, but the effect remains largely the same. This year it’s Australian Flu that’s impacting our health. Reports stated1 that 4.5 million people in England were suffering “influenza-like symptoms” in January and 24 people died from flu in the UK in a single week. Chris Wakefield, Vice President, European Marketing & Product Development, GOJO Industries – Europe Limited, says hand hygiene is crucial in limiting the spread of this seasonal virus.

The importance of hand hygiene in preventing the spread of illness cannot be overestimated. Contaminated hands can sequentially transfer some viruses to up to seven surfaces and fourteen people can be contaminated by touching the same object. Put those figures together and it’s easy to see how one person’s illness can spread widely and quickly; even before you consider them coming into direct contact with anyone. The situation is made worse by the fact that some pathogens can live on surfaces for weeks or even months meaning a high potential for clients, staff and visitors to be exposed.

A requirement, not an added extra

The simple act of hand washing can make a huge difference to health, helping to prevent the spread of germs. Hundreds of studies published over the past 20 years show it reduces Healthcare Associated Infections by between 25% and 50%.

Vaccines are a powerful weapon in the battle against flu, but they are not a universal panacea. They can only protect against the three or four viruses that research suggests will be most common each year. Hand washing is the first line of defence to help minimise winter infections.

By providing access to effective and attractive hand hygiene systems, incorporating soaps and sanitisers that appeal to the senses of touch and smell, care environments can boost the health and well-being of everyone at their facilities.

Not something to be sniffed at

Flu can be debilitating, often leaving people bed-ridden and unable to work for several days. Symptoms include fever/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain, headaches and fatigue – a formidable list to which even the healthiest person would find it hard not to succumb. For those already requiring care, the infection can be a lot more serious.

Hand hygiene systems in care environments should incorporate easy-to-use and effective products, and these should be freely and widely available. Washrooms are central in combatting infection, and the provision of pleasant and effective soap in dispensers that are simple to operate and built to last is vital. A hand sanitiser dispenser at the exit can also improve hygiene.

High traffic areas such as reception/waiting areas, beside lifts, and eating areas or canteens are all touch points with a high risk of contamination. Supplying hand sanitiser dispensers in these areas – wall-mounted, free-standing, or in pump bottles placed on tables or desktops – can reduce the threat. Travel-sized bottles can also be kept in a pocket or bag, or attached to a belt loop or a bag for hand hygiene wherever you go.

The wrong soap can make the situation worse

Even with the best intentions, it is possible that washing hands won’t in itself prevent infections. In fact in some cases, bulk refillable soaps, can actually cause more problems. Pouring the soap into the open reservoir increases the risk of germs, dust and insects, which circulate unseen in the air, permeating the soap. The resulting bacteria not only pollute the soap, but can also coat the inside of the soap dispenser. This creates a biofilm which is extremely hard to clean, so each time the dispenser is refilled, the bacteria contaminates the new soap.

Refills which are hygienically sealed at the factory and simply ‘snapped’ into place on site are the smart, safe and sustainable option. They mean that the soap is never exposed to the outside environment, ensuring it is contamination-free.

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