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)
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