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Deadly hospital infections: Consistent hand hygiene saves lives


Washing your hands properly helps against pathogens

Consistent hand hygiene is one of the most important measures to protect yourself from dangerous infectious diseases. In hospitals in particular, staff, patients and visitors should always clean their hands thoroughly. This is what health experts point out on the occasion of the International Hand Hygiene Day.

Optimal hand hygiene protects against illnesses

Even at a young age, many children are taught the saying: "After the toilet and before eating - don't forget to wash your hands". Unfortunately, execution sometimes fails, even with adults. And that although proper hand washing is the most important hygiene rule. It can significantly reduce the risk of infectious diseases. For the International Hand Hygiene Day, experts explain what must be observed when it comes to hand hygiene - especially in hospitals.

Hygiene is often neglected

According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 80 percent of all infectious diseases are transmitted via the hands.

According to medical experts, the risk of developing gastrointestinal infections, diarrhea, flu or the common cold can be significantly reduced by washing your hands properly.

Nevertheless, hygiene is often neglected, as a study by students from the Faculty of Applied Psychology at the private SRH Heidelberg University showed.

In their investigation, they found that most people do not wash their hands properly after using the toilet.

Washing hands after using the toilet

In order to achieve their result, the students had looked at 1,000 visitors to public toilets in the Rhine-Neckar region:

“Around 7% completely avoided hand washing. 27% only washed their hands with water and around 58% used water and soap, but not with the required thoroughness. Only around 8% cleaned their hands in an exemplary manner, ”reports the university in a statement.

Like other experts, the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) recommends cleaning with water and soap for at least 20 seconds, not only on the palms of the hands but also on the spaces between the fingers.

Dangerous multi-resistant pathogens

The Heidelberg study made an important contribution to directing public interest to the topic.

On the occasion of the International Day of Action, health experts have now drawn particular attention to why careful hand hygiene is particularly important in hospitals.

The multiresistant pathogen MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus) is particularly problematic there.

"It can become a death trap for sick or immunocompromised patients, such as those who have just undergone surgery," explains Dr. Julia Gokel, Professor of Social Law at the SRH University in Heidelberg in a current release.

15,000 deaths from hospital infections annually

The Barmer health insurance company also shows how dangerous so-called hospital infections can become. According to this, around 500,000 people contract it every year in Germany. As a result, up to 15,000 patients die each year.

A third of these infections are considered preventable, especially by hand disinfection.

“The Clean Hands campaign and other initiatives have changed a lot for the better. However, in some hospitals, old people's homes and nursing homes you can do more to avoid infections. Hygiene has to be improved even more here, ”says Prof. Dr. Christoph Straub, CEO of Barmer.

According to the health insurance company, the properly performed hand disinfection eliminates pathogens such as bacteria, fungi or viruses as well as the particularly dangerous so-called multi-resistant pathogens (MRE), against which almost no antibiotics were effective.

“More than 80 percent of MREs have already been brought to the hospital by patients or their relatives. They would appear on the skin or in the intestines of many people without causing an infection or complaints, ”wrote the health insurance company.

However, it would always be dangerous if these germs were transmitted to people with weakened defenses. Proper hand disinfection is the most important measure against transmission.

Avoid shaking hands

It can also be helpful to do without the greeting handshake.

Because: "There are about 10 million microorganisms on our hands alone, some of which can also be pathogenic," writes the University Hospital Münster (UKM).

On the occasion of the international day of action, the clinic's employees were able to use a portable UV lamp to check the effectiveness of their hand hygiene.

The knowledge of germ transmission and the importance of hand hygiene in everyday hospital life should also be brought to the attention of patients and visitors through the instructive self-test with the lamp.

In other hospitals, such as Leipzig University Hospital, the lamps with ultraviolet light were also used.

"For many visitors or patients, this has an eye-opening effect, because they see that apparently well disinfected is not the same as pathogen-free," says Prof. Iris Chaberny, director of the Institute for Hygiene, Hospital Hygiene and Environmental Medicine at the University Hospital Leipzig.

For the staff, the offer had the main effect of simply checking their own routine.

“Are my hand movements when it comes to hand hygiene, do I use the right amount of disinfectant, have I perhaps practiced a less than optimal movement? - These are questions that everyone working in the hospital should ask themselves at least once a year - and for this we use the World Hand Hygiene Day together, ”said the hygiene expert. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: Why is Hand Hygiene so important? (August 2020).