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Only 5% Wash their Hands Properly after Going to the Toilet, Research

Just 5% of people wash their hands long enough to destroy infectious germs after using toilets, researchers from Michigan State University reported in the Journal of Environmental Health.

Even more worrying, the authors added that 10% skipped washing their hands altogether, while 33% used no soap at all. It appears that men are less willing to wash their hands after going to the toilet than women.

According to Lead researcher, Prof. Carl Borchgrevink, and team gathered and analyzed data on 3,749 people in public restrooms.

"These findings were surprising to us because past research suggested that proper hand washing is occurring at a much higher rate."

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says that the one thing people can do to lower the spread of infectious diseases is to maintain good hand hygiene.

US public health authorities say that nearly 50% of food borne illness outbreaks in the country are due to bad hand hygiene, which not only refers to people who do not wash their hands, but also to those who do not do it properly.

In order to kill off the germs, all it takes are 15 to 20 seconds of vigorous hand washing with soap and water, says the CDC.

However, according to the study, most people spend around six seconds during each hand washing session.

Borchgrevink and team trained twelve college students on how to gather data, and sent them out to watch how many people wash their hands, and how well they wash them in the restrooms of restaurants, bars and other public places. They tried to be as quiet as they could.

But Borchgrevink says this is one of the few studies on hand hygiene that takes into account duration and soap usage.

The researchers found that:
15% of men and 7% of women did not wash their hands.

Only 50% of the men and 78% of the women who did wash their hands used soap.

Dirty sinks were more likely to be avoided altogether - no hand-washing was more commonly observed in bathrooms with dirty sinks.

Good hand hygiene was more prevalent earlier in the day. The authors believe that during the evenings/nighttimes, when people are out eating and drinking, they are in a more relaxed mode and hand hygiene becomes less of a priority.

People are advised to always use anti-bacterial soap to kill all the germs.

Signs encouraging people to wash their hands seem to help. Hand washing was more prevalent in bathrooms with signs

Borchgrevink said their study has implications for both consumers and people who operate hotels and restaurants. Before becoming a researcher, Borchgrevink worked as a restaurant manager and also as a chef.

"Imagine you’re a business owner and people come to your establishment and get food borne illness through the fecal-oral route - because people didn’t wash their hands - and then your reputation is on the line. You could lose your business."

Good hand hygiene not only protects the general public from the spread of infections, it is also a vital part of keeping hospital acquired infections down to a minimum.

Office workers come into contact with 10 million bacteria every day, with many spreading the norovirus around the office without knowing it.

A previous study by the firm found that after using the toilet, a person has on average 200m bacteria per square inch on each hand.

People can then transfer the bacteria to their hands or mouths, as well as on to doors, keyboards, phones.

This means office workers come into contact with an average 10 million bacteria a day.
Last year, US researchers highlighted the importance of hand washing, as it found a virus can spread through an office within two to four hours.

Researchers found 40 to 60 per cent of workers as well as visitors were infected after touching objects in the building.

Experts said hand hygiene and using disinfectant wipes could help stop the virus being spread, preventing workers being absent through illness.

By Robert Muriisa.

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