Best Swine Flu preparedness starts with simple prevention practices

By on May 7, 2009

Among the best “offenses” available against the Swine Flu is good old-fashioned hand washing.

That’s right-hand washing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control in Washington, D.C., the single-most important thing people can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illness to others is to wash their hands.

Why? Because some viruses and bacteria can live from 20 minutes up to two hours or more on surfaces like cafeteria tables, door knobs and desks. Still, other germs can be carried by people, animals or equipment and transmitted to food. The results can be deadly.

As important as hand washing is, research has shown people do not wash their hands as often as they think they do. One particularly unsettling “Handwashing Observational and Telephone Survey” was done in August 1996, for the Bayer Corporation Pharmaceutical Division in association with the American Society for Microbiology. Although 94 percent of telephone respondents (1,004 adults) claimed they always washed their hands after using the restroom, a subsequent observational survey of 6,333 adults in public restrooms (New York, Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans and San Francisco) found that only 68 percent, in fact, actually did wash their hands.

Similar results were found in a study of middle and high school students. As reported in the American Journal of Infection Control (1997), this particular study found only 58 percent of female students and 48 percent of male students washed their hands after using the bathroom.

Although it would be easy to assume society has come a long way in the decade since, millions upon millions of school and work days are still lost simply because people don’t wash their hands often or well enough.

“Given how contagious Swine Flu is proving to be, the best first line of defense is to wash your hands well several times a day,” said Douglas Weigand, interim executive director for the Fox River Chapter of the American Red Cross, St. Charles.

The chapter has “Clean Hands Saves Lives” information available for both adults and children. To request a copy, call (630) 443-8844 or visit the chapter offices at 121 N. 2nd St., Suite G. in St. Charles. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.