World record wash-off: India versus South Africa

The World Health Organization launched their second annual Global Handwashing Day on October 15, 2009. The purpose of the two events was to break current world record holder, Bhiddwa School Niketon of Dhaka, Bangladesh, with 1,213 participants.

South Africa broke the current record with 1,802 Gauteng school-children participants with help from rugby hero Bryan Habana.

But it was India that demolished the current record holder with an amazing 15,000 students from 23 schools in Chennai. The handwashing celebration was held in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Students had mixed feelings about the event saying, “Our teachers insisted that we came, otherwise we would not have bothered about this” and, “we knew that we are going to be part of a record-setting event. Despite being a bit tired, we find it great to be here.”

Congratulations, India.

Global Handwashing Day is Thursday, October 15, 2009

Break out the party hats, soap, vigorously running water, and paper towels, it’s Global Handwashing Day. Well, I guess it depends on where you are in the world. Several countries and organizations are celebrating in a variety of ways.

I think it should be like New Years. Everyone needs to make a Global Handwashing Resolution: wash your hands after using the bathroom, before and after eating, after coughing or blowing your nose, and a variety of other times dealing with bodily fluids and foods.

The world has cooties

I am sure I am not the only person who had to deal with cooties. I wasn’t sure cooties had a definition, but apparently it is a non-medical term for an invisible disease. When I was younger I thought, or was told, that boys had cooties (unless you were a boy and then girls had cooties). I never wanted to touch a boy or touch anything that had been touched by boys. If there was contamination I would quickly chant, “circle circle, dot dot, now I got my cootie shot.” There were hand motions that went along with it as well.

I realize that H1N1, seasonal flu, and other infectious diseases are different than cooties, but in many places, people are acting as if everyone has cooties.

An article by USA Today talks about how people, churches, work places, and hospitals are changing to avoid H1N1 and other influenza/diseases. Butt bumping and fist pumping has taken the place of shaking hands. Magazines and toys have been removed from waiting rooms in hospitals and clinics. And, my personal favorite, stethoscopes and chairs are being disinfected (I can’t believe this hasn’t been done before).

Protect yourself from cooties and other diseases.

Don’t argue, just wash or sanitize your hands

I have not really been to Canada; apparently Niagra Falls doesn’t count. But I have had my fair share of Canadian teammates (Canadian Olympian Courtenay Stewart), friends (KSU PhD student, Tanis Hastmann), colleagues (Katie Filion and Ben Chapman), and my boss (Doug Powell). Most of them have strong opinions about everything, which is one of their best qualities.

In accordance to strong opinionated Canadians, the Public Health Agency of Canada has issued guidelines for proper hand hygiene “based on scientific evidence and expert opinion” to prevent and control infection. This guidance includes when to wash or sanitize when there is running water available, when running water is not available, and when running water is not clean.

Hands should be washed:
when they are visibly dirty;
before preparing and immediately after handling food;
before eating food or feeding others;
before breastfeeding;
after using the toilet, changing/handling diapers, or helping someone use the toilet;
after contact with contaminated surfaces (e.g., garbage bins, cleaning cloths);
after handling pets and domestic animals;
after wiping or blowing nose, handling soiled tissues, or sneezing into hands;
after contact with blood or body fluids (e.g., vomit, saliva);
before and after dressing wounds;
before and after giving care or visiting someone who is ill, or someone who is less able to fight off infections (e.g. diabetic, cancer patient);
before preparing and taking medication; and
before inserting and removing contact lenses.

Follow the directions and suggestions, wash or sanitize your hands.

Scrub Club to the rescue

If you are a kid, have kids, or act like a kid, then the Scrub Club is for you. This website is dedicated to promoting handwashing using cartoon children that transform into handwashing tools (i.e., soap, hot and cold water, paper towel, etc.). These super-hero handwashers also have enemies: villains named Bac, E. Coli, Flu, Sal Monella, Shigella, and Campy Lobacter. The website includes webisodes, games, information for parents and teachers, and handwashing songs to sing.

Is handwashing enough?

Washing your hands is great, but it isn’t enough to stop the spread of influenza. Experts from the University of California-Berkeley, Mark Nicas (Environmental Health Sciences) and Arthur Reingold (Epidemiology) say handwashing is one of several ways to combat influenza. Other ways include not touching your face (eyes nose, or mouth) and staying home from school or work if sick.

Reingold says you’re more likely to get sick from influenza, especially the H1N1 virus, from airborne particles because inhaling the flu particles gives you a larger dose than by touching a contaminated object. And, according to Nicas, students at UC Berkeley touch their face an average of 16 times per hour. That is 384 times to transmit what ever is on your hands into mucus glands located in your mouth, eyes, and nose in one day.

Since influenza transmission hasn’t been studied as much as other viruses, like the rhinovirus, the best method of prevention remains unknown. Still, handwashing is a wonderful tool to use; we must remember other preventative ways as well. Stay home and away from others if you’re sick or you feel like you’re getting sick, don’t touch your face, and cover your nose and mouth with your elbow when sneezing and coughing.

Handwashing habits have not changed: the survey is in

Bradley Corporation, leading manufacture of commercial bathroom and locker room furnishings, released a national survey confirming H1N1 virus has not changed handwashing habits of Americans. Approximately 54 per cent of surveyed individuals said they “wash their hands no more or less frequently” since H1N1 flu virus has emerged.

Jon Dommisse, Bradley Corporation’s director of marketing and product development said, “we were extremely surprised by that response especially since the medical community calls hand washing the best defense against the spread of cold and flu viruses.”

Handwashing is recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Washing your hands “is a simple thing to do and it’s the best way to prevent infection and illness.”

The online survey was administered July 28-31 to 1,020 Americans regarding handwashing in public restrooms. Individuals were from across the country, equally male and female, and ranged from 18-65+ years old.

H1N1 flu vaccine: strategies questioned

In a six-hour meeting yesterday, Sunday, August 23, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Trevose, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the H1N1 flu vaccine was discussed. The main question was how to approach the public: “full throttle” and “go slow” options were debated. The meeting included watching videos about pandemics, vaccines, and the brief history of H1N1.

The vaccine would be taken on a voluntary basis regardless of the panel’s decision, but how educating the public, the benefits or risks of the vaccine, and possible mandating of the vaccine seems to be what most of the panel members are concerned with.

Prevention of H1N1 by handwashing did not seem to be a topic of conversation.

This meeting is one of ten that are occurring across the US. To read the full article, click here.

Do you actually wash your hands?

A blog posting on was brought to my attention yesterday. Most of the postings are pretty interesting, whether you agree, disagree, or think people are crazy. And anyone can submit a neurosis to possibly be posted. Examples of my personal neuroses would include tying paper straw wrappers into knots and folding them into small pieces before I throw them away. Or eating sandwiches in a circular pattern because they taste better that way.

 “fake hand washing” was posted on September 29, 2008, so I know it’s not recent, but I thought it was valid to talk about.

This person writes, “I don’t wash my hands every time after going to the bathroom because I don’t want to aggravate my dry skin too much. But I want everyone to think I’ve washed my hands so after I flush I turn on the faucet and let the water run for people to hear. I want it to be believable though, so I mime washing my hands to make sure I let the water run for exactly how long it would take me to really do it.”

If you’re going to take the time to fake handwash, why not actually clean your hands? And if it’s because of dry skin, why not use lotions? And if you think your hands didn’t touch anything, how do you know for sure if microbiological pathogens are too small to see?

The website will also be publishing a book, i am neurotic (and so are you), by HarperStudio on October 13, 2009.