Type “schools and staph infections” into a leading Internet search engine, and you’ll find over 360,000 results. And for good reason.

The latest National Cleaning Survey from The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) finds Americans are concerned about reports of skin infections, like Staphylococcus aureus, in their children’s schools.

If this bacterium becomes resistant to methicillin, a powerful antibiotic commonly used to fight Staph infections, recovery from the infection becomes much more difficult. This antibiotic resistant strain is known as MRSA, or Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus. In the past, nearly all cases of MRSA were found in hospitalized patients, but now there is an increasing number of infections acquired outside hospitals and in the community.

SDA’s recent survey of 1008 American adults found 74 percent were concerned about ensuring good hand hygiene practices in schools, given many recent reports about infections spreading in scholastic settings.

Separately, 84 percent said they were concerned about ensuring good hand hygiene practices for themselves and their family members at home.

“Surface cleaning, disinfection and proper hand hygiene all play critical roles in helping to prevent the spread of staph infections in schools, homes and health care settings,” said Nancy Bock, SDA Vice President of Education. “People’s levels of awareness of infection risk and prevention methods are promising. To stay their healthiest, people need to convert their awareness into action.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), good hygiene is critical in preventing staph or skin infections:

• Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
• Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.
• Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.
(Source: CDC, Community-Associated MRSA Information for the Public, http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/ar_mrsa_ca_public.html#8)

And when you are around someone who has a staph infection, there are additional steps that can be taken to avoid spreading the infection to family and friends, including:

• Clean surfaces daily with an EPA-registered disinfectant according to the manufacturer’s directions, or
• Use a solution of one tablespoon of bleach mixed in one quart of water to disinfect all non-disposable items and surfaces that may have come in contact with the infected area, wound drainage, or soiled supplies.
• Wash soiled linens and clothes with hot water and laundry detergent. Dry them in a hot dryer, if possible.
• Wash utensils and dishes in the usual manner, with dish detergent and hot water or in a dishwasher.
(Sources: “How to keep family safe from your staph infection,” Feb. 2006, RNWeb.com, http://www.rnweb.com/rnweb/data/articlestandard/rnweb/052006/302303/article.pdf; “Guidelines for Reducing the Spread of Staph/CA-MRSA in Non-Healthcare Settings,” Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, Dec. 2004, http://lapublichealth.org/acd/docs/MRSA/MRSA_Guideline_12_20_04.pdf.)

Americans’ Generally Aware of Hygiene Importance in Spread of Viral Diseases

Many viral infections, such as colds, flu and gastrointestinal infections are spread through person-to-person contact or contact with contaminated surfaces. Proper handwashing is the simplest and most effective way to prevent these infections from spreading.

According to SDA’s recent survey, most Americans are aware of the numerous benefits of clean hands. A full 90 percent of respondents believe that handwashing can help reduce the spread of a viral flu pandemic, and 87 percent believe hand hygiene can be helpful in preventing the spread of a viral disease outbreak such as the avian flu.

But that same survey found that 36 percent of Americans seldom or never wash their hands after sneezing.

“This is where we need to do better,” added Bock. “Many of the germs that can make us sick are spread hand-to-hand or hand-to-surface.”

SDA’s Online, No-Cost Information for Consumers

SDA has online information for consumers – at no cost – on the proper and safe use of cleaning, disinfecting, and hand hygiene products.

“Clean and Safe in the 21st Century,” a guide to safe and effective use of cleaning and disinfecting products, is available online at www.cleaning101.com/health.

SDA’s Hand Hygiene Fact Sheet, a new resource about products that clean hands and/or kill germs on hands, at home and on-the-go, is available at www.cleaning101.com/handhygiene.