UN: Cleaner hands will reduce major disease spread

Wash, wash, washWith 1.4 million people worldwide falling seriously ill at any time due to health care-associated infections, the United Nations World Health Organization announced that it is launching a major campaign to reduce hand-spread infections, including major pandemic diseases such as the avian flu.

The hand hygiene guidelines will be launched by WHO in conjunction with ministers of health, senior officials and technical experts, and are part of the agency’s ‘Clean Care is Safer Care’ programme, a series of actions they are undertaking to reduce health care-associated infections, known as nosocomial infections, such as the spread of disease from hand contact, blood safety and injection, clinical practices, and water, sanitation and waste management.

“[We] have developed low-cost strategies to fight this global challenge,” WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook said. “Implementing these strategies is the best way to prevent health care-associated infection and improve safety,” he added.

Hand hygiene still remains the primary measure to reduce health care-associated infections and the spread of antimicrobial resistance, and is equally effective in small facilities as in large hospital complexes, said the agency, noting that that during a new influenza pandemic, “the huge number of patients seeking care will pose a challenge to health services and greatly increase the risk of spread.”

And although “transmission by large droplets when people cough or sneeze is considered the major route of influenza spread, transmission via contaminated hands may be a contributing factor,” the agency said.

The agency estimates that between 5 and 10 per cent of patients admitted to hospitals in developed countries have contracted their infections through health care-associated contamination, a number which can jump to 25 per cent in developing countries. According to studies conducted in three Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, between $7 billion and $8.5 billion dollars are lost each year by these countries due to health care-associated infections.

The ‘Hand Hygiene in Health Care’ guidelines were developed by over 100 technical experts over a year’s time, said the agency, and will be tested in different health care settings over six WHO regions.

From United Nations

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