Observing Global Handwashing Day has never been more important than during a pandemic that could be stemmed, in part, by everyone taking hand hygiene seriously.
Keeping our hands clean is one of the most important habits we can adopt to prevent contracting Covid-19 and spreading the coronavirus that causes the disease to others.
Without washing properly and killing off the coronavirus — and other viruses, bacteria and germs we pick up from raw meats, fecal matter and respiratory droplets — it can spread between people and cause disease.
“The COVID-19 pandemic provides an important reminder that handwashing with soap and water is one of the simplest, most effective ways to stop the spread of germs and stay healthy,” said Vincent Hill, chief of the Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, via email.
“Many germs that can make people sick are spread when we don’t wash our hands with soap and clean, running water.”Handwashing with soap and water can prevent 1 in 3 people from getting sick with diarrhea and 1 in 5 people from getting a respiratory illness. That is why handwashing is so important, especially at key times such as after using the bathroom, when preparing food, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.”
Of course, people are more focused on handwashing during the pandemic. A July poll found that 88% of Americans said they were washing their hands more frequently. Despite the risks of catching or spreading disease, handwashing is performed only by 51% after events of potential fecal contact — and that’s in regions with high access to handwashing facilities.
“Hand Hygiene for All” is the theme of this year’s Global Handwashing Day, following a recent World Health Organization initiative calling for improved hand hygiene. Global Handwashing Day is an annual global advocacy day established by the Global Handwashing Partnership to advocate for handwashing with soap as an easy, effective and frugal way to prevent diseases and save lives.
Here’s why some people don’t wash their hands, why others are unable to and how to increase motivation to hand-wash more often.
Why some people don’t wash their hands
The factors that influence handwashing behaviors are likely to be optimistic bias — thinking disease can’t happen to them — or underestimating the severity of the risk, said Barbara Mullan, a professor and director of the Health Psychology & Behavioural Medicine Research Group at Curtin University in Australia.
“Some argue that we humans are prone to physiological disgust reactions, that is when really horrible looking grime and filth are observed we are motivated to remove ourselves from the disgusting situation or remove the disgusting agent,”
Berry said via email. “But as to Covid-19, this virus is mercurial; much of the confusion and debate is directly related to its invisibility. We all know that Covid-19 is out there somewhere, but exactly where and with whom is the big question.”
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