CLL Support Association
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Medical breakthrough to save millions of lives

Medical breakthrough to save millions of lives

Perhaps you thought this blog was news of some new anti-cancer drug, but it's the headline that should have been used worldwide in 1854 when Dr Snow made the connection between human waste and cholera outbreaks in London and started the field of epidemiology. His low cost solution of removing a water pump handle stopped a cholera outbreak. In reality, it is simple things like sanitation engineering and basic hygiene that can do more to prevent widespread death, pain and suffering than modern drugs and medical diagnostic technology.

So why do so many people in the community and even in medical centres 'forget' to wash their hands? Shockingly, hospital hand washing compliance rates are roughly 50% before improvement programs are implemented, after which they improve to around just 80%!! (See the Hand Washing references below.)

Roughly half of us are likely to die from an infection we can't fight due to our CLL. I consider that a very good incentive to improve our personal hygiene and encourage those around us to do the same.

Using public conveniences can be a real problem due to poor community hand washing practices coupled with poor door design. In Australia (and doubt it is limited to here), you nearly always have to turn one or more door handles to exit! In these cases, my technique is to wash my hands in running water, then cup a hand to catch some water, turn off the tap with the other hand, then rinse that hand. I dry my hands with a paper towel rather than an air dryer (see references for why), then grasp the door handle using the towel before tossing it into the bin. Otherwise I just use my elbow to push doors open. I also carry a small alcohol based hand sanitiser when out.

How can we encourage others?

Provide positive feedback when you see good practices in medical establishments, food preparation, etc.

When asked for feedback from places where you buy meals or prepared food, reinforce how important good hygiene is to you.

Please share your tips!


"Prevention is better than cure." - Desiderius Erasmus in 1523

and more chillingly (with respect to disease outbreaks),

"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it" - Edmund Burke (1729-1797)


Further References:

Hand washing

Why are the British so bad at washing their hands?

Faecal bacteria join the commute

Recent hand wash data from 656 Australian public and private hospitals

(Plenty of good information on this site)

Paper Towels vs Air dryers (

John Snow identifies cause of London cholera outbreaks

(Thanks to Wikipedia for the image of the John Snow memorial and public house, Broadwick Street, Soho, London.)

History of Sanitation Engineering

Engineering Prevention

6 Replies

Bottled water... In my hospital drinking water is provided cold in waiting rooms, from the common white stand with a 5 gallon 18 litre blue plastic container on top... patients grap paper cups stacked on the top of the machine, dispense water at the spigot and walk on...

perhaps 30 or 40 cups an hour...


Ambient, unfiltred, air flows in these coolers to replace the does c.diff, e.coli, MRSA and who knows what fungus are among us!

These rapidly become cesspools!

Then the oncology nurses come and fill white plastic tea thermoses with water, to use to give water to chemo patients wth their premeds! Wonder when THOSE were washed last?

After this observation...I now pack my own bottled water... it is these little

things that make us ill...




Great observation Chris. Sadly we still face the risk of water borne disease 160 years after discovering this infection path. I'll be a bit more aware now of the location of those bottled water dispensers before grabbing a drink!

I'd also recommend staying with a brand you're OK with. Not all brands fulfill the portrayed purity image and in the US they can even be sourced from municipal water - see (1) below.

That said, in first world countries, tap water SHOULD be regularly tested to international drinking water quality standards and hence safer than bottled water, so by all means refill your bottle from your home drinking water supply, but not indefinitely (2).



(2) greenliving.nationalgeograp...


Apply for a disabled toilet key from Radar, London. It does not eliminate the problem but does reduce it. I was in a luxury car showroom the other day (cars up to £2 milion) 3 Salesman used the toilets while I was in there , not one washed his hands,but they all shake them all day long with other people.


WHY oh WHY is it that all public toilet room doors open from the inside by pulling inwards towards you..? Always a handle to pull, just when 'customers' have either dirty or wet hands.

It would be so much better if all these doors could be opened from the inside with a gentle push of the knee or foot.

Seems so simple to me and yet I almost never see this.



Another 'trick' I use, but is only possible if someone is just in front of you coming out is to let them go first, they normally hold door open, I catch the door ith my elbow/upper arm. Always Mae sure to say 'thank you' to strengthen their commitment to do so.

The real thing is to try avoiding th public toilet but that's not always possible.

Hand cleaner always carried and paper towels used here when possible but I made that change as a 'Eco' decision a couple of years ago before my diagnosis.



Hi I play bridge which means handling cards that have been through dozens of hands. I carry a small hand wash in my bag which I use if my immune system is low or if it is the flu season. I try not to be OTT but as has been said prevention is better than cure.


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