According to the US Centers for Disease Control, "Handwashing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection." Hand-transmission is a critical factor in the spread of bacteria and viruses causing disease such as colds, flu and foodborne illness. To help raise awareness of proper hand hygiene, many are recognizing National Handwashing Awareness Week, December 5-11, and promoting proper handwashing techniques.

In childcare, a recent study published in the medical journal, Infectious Diseases in Children reports 33% of daycare facilities "had poor hand washing techniques and no policy for hand washing before eating or after playing outside." Researchers recovered fecal coliforms from the hands of one out of every five staff members. The conclusion of the report was that improvements in hand washing procedures be a major priority in day-care centers. "In spite of all the studies about the benefits of hand washing, improper or infrequent hand washing continues to be a major factor in the spread of disease in day-care" (Source: Infectious Diseases in Children, Volume 4, July 1991).

A recent national survey conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide found that 95% of the respondents say they always wash their hands after going to the bathroom. However, observations in public restrooms indicate the rate to be much lower. In New York City males only washed their hands 43% of the time and females 54%. Across all cities women did better outscoring men 75% versus 58%.

It is especially important to wash your hands:
• After coughing or sneezing (if you covered your nose or mouth with your hand)
• Before, during, and after you prepare food
• Before you eat, and after you use the bathroom
• When your hands are dirty, and
• More frequently when someone you live with is sick.