Proper Hand Hygiene Helps Prevent Flu
A recent study found that programs which include the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer will reduce illness caused by influenza A and absenteeism in schools. Reported in Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, the study involved five Pittsburgh elementary schools, each of which received five-step training for the "cough etiquette and hand hygiene" program.
Titled "WHACK the Flu," children were taught:
(W)ash or sanitize your hands often.
(H)ome is where you stay when you are sick.
(A)void touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
(C)over your coughs and sneezes.
(K)eep your distance from sick people.
Schools in the program had a significant 52 percent reduction in the rate of confirmed illness caused by influenza A. However, there was no significant difference in the overall rate of laboratory-confirmed influenza, or in the rate of illness caused by influenza B.
Along with the decrease in influenza A, there was a 26 percent reduction in total school absences. The hygiene program was also linked to possible improvements in other school attendance measures, including a lower rate of absences during flu season.
Although the "WHACK the Flu" program didn't lower the overall influenza rate, it did achieve approximately a one-half reduction in influenza A and a one-fourth reduction in school absences. The researchers aren't sure why there was no decrease in influenza B—possibly because of "basic differences in the biology or epidemiology" of influenza B, or because it occurred later in the flu season and mainly in younger children.
In addition to sanitizers, proper handwashing has shown to reduce the spread of bacteria. According to a study published in the Journal of Food Protection, using antibacterial soaps in handwashing has statistically greater reductions in bacteria on the skin when compared to the non-antibacterial counterparts.
The researcher found that even small differences in efficacy between antimicrobial and non-antimicrobial soap can have a significant effect on public health. In addition, antibacterial soap was found to be effective against several different species of bacteria, including staph.