Hand Hygiene Handwashing and Clean Hands Saves Lives


Preventing Swine Flu

Turn on the news today and you can be sure one of the hot  topics being covered is the status of the Influenza A – H1N1 strain, commonly  referred to as “swine flu”. Ever since the World Health Organization (WHO)  raised the pandemic alert level of the swine flu from phase 4 to 5 on April 29,  2009, people have become increasingly cautious. Naturally, prevention comes to  mind and the most popular question recently is how?

Swine flu is a respiratory disease that originates from pigs  as the name would suggest. Although the swine flu originated from pigs, a  common misconception is that people can receive the swine flu from eating pork.  Pork that is cooked well pose no risk of transmitting the virus. Cooking the  meat well kills all bacteria and virus.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mentions  the most common method of transmission of H1N1 from human to human is through  coughing or sneezing from infected individuals. Similar to the seasonal flu,  swine flu will cause similar symptoms of the standard flu such as coughing,  fever, body aches, and fatigue. To be safe, it is recommended to stay away from  individuals who show signs of being sick. WHO recommends staying away from  public areas crowding with people; however, for most individuals this is nearly  impossible to do. This is where practicing good hand hygiene becomes necessary.

As  with all influenza viruses, the CDC notes that washing hands regularly will be  beneficial in the prevention of contracting the illness. Invisible to the naked  eye, swine flu can reside in droplets of bodily fluids that can fall on doorknobs,  tables, or other public areas. If you were to touch such surfaces and then  touch your nose or mouth, your risk of receiving the swine flu is very high.  Washing the hands or using alcohol-based sanitizers will ensure your hands  remain clean just in case you involuntarily touch your nose.

As we enter the summer months, experts note that the voracity  of the swine flu will die down. The biggest fear is what will happen when we  enter the autumn season. Historically, outbreaks of influenza saw the virus die  down during summer to only pick up during autumn and winter when the virus can  spread easier. The biggest fear from experts is that the swine flu can pick up  elements of the seasonal flu and develop properties of resistance.

Research is currently underway to successfully combat this  virus which includes the development of vaccines. Full development of the H1N1  influenza strain vaccine is closer, but is still racing against the clock since  full-scale production of the vaccine will also take time to make.

Time  will tell how serious the 2009 swine flu is. Perhaps the virus will just go  away or perhaps it will cause an outbreak. In any case, the best thing we can  do in the meantime is be smart about preventing the spread. At this time,  washing your hands regularly is one of the most effective ways to prevent the  spread of influenza. Let’s wash our hands properly and do our part in creating  a healthier environment.

-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov.
-World Health Organization. www.who.gov.


What is MRSA? Why Care?

The Staphylococcus Aureus bacteria are known to be  responsible for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus infections commonly  referred to as MRSA.  MRSA infections can  affect different skin parts of the body and is considered to be serious because  of its resistant nature to numerous antibodies including penicillin.  For this reason, MRSA has been dubbed as the super germ.
The primary cause of the super germ is due to the overuse of  antibiotics.  Since the discovery of  penicillin, antibiotics continue to be effective in treating bacteria related  infections.  However, the continued use  of antibiotics has caused certain bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotic  drugs like MRSA.  This problem is  compounded by the fact that doctors have been overprescribing antibiotics to  patients.

Since antibiotics have been viewed as a “cure-all” drug, numerous  physicians have been prescribing patients with sore throats, common cold, or  flu symptoms with antibiotics.  In some  cases, antibiotics are not needed at all.   In fact, patients also contribute to the rise of MRSA.

In addition to demanding drugs to cure any illness, many patients  who receive antibiotics do not follow instructions given by the doctor and pharmacist.  Patients frequently stop taking antibiotics  once they feel better even though they are told to continue treatment for a  prescribed period.  Others simply forget  to take the drug at the correct time.   These examples of carelessness provide ample conditions for the  remaining bacteria in the body to develop resistance to the drug used.

Fortunately, there are treatments available to cure patients  with MRSA; however, the treatment options are limited.  The fear of MRSA or any super germ is that we  will eventually exhaust all treatment options available.  The more drugs we use, the less the drug  becomes effective.   Although MRSA is known to critically affect  the elderly, children, and individuals with weak immune systems, cases of  healthy individuals becoming victims are rising.  Today, MRSA is responsible for thousands of  deaths every month in the U.S. and we can help minimize the spread of these  bacteria.

The CDC promotes hand hygiene through handwashing as a means  of reducing MRSA infections.  MRSA can be  spread through skin-to-skin contact, cuts on the skin, and even sharing  personal items like towels.  Good hygiene  such as frequent handwashing with soap and water is one of the best ways to  prevent getting MRSA and spreading it. Although MRSA is quite serious, we can do our  part to prevent the spread of MRSA.

Remember,  clean hands save lives!

-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Community-acquired   methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections-Michigan. MMWR.   1981;30:185-7.
-Buckingham S, McDougal L, Cathey L;et al. Emergence of Community-Associated   Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus at a Memphis, Tennessee   Children's Hospital. Pediatrics Infection Disease Journal. 23(7):619-624, 2004.


Reducing Infections Through Hand Hygiene

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1.7 million patients in American hospitals develop healthcare-associated infections each year, leading to about 99,000 deaths annually. Clinical studies have shown that healthcare-associated infection rates were lower after antiseptic handwashing.

Did you know that each clinician can help reduce the number of healthcare-associated infections by following hand hygiene guidelines? That is our mission: to eliminate  healthcare-associated infections through  education of proper hand hygiene.