Poor hand hygiene causes disease – a fact known to scientists since the 19th century, and repeatedly proven by studies that have established the positive correlation between poor hand hygiene and higher mortality rates through bacteria or viruses.
Pathogens can infect surfaces and survive for specific periods of time. Exposure to such surfaces combined with poor hand hygiene assists the spread of dangerous bacteria and viruses leading to disease. So, how can people in the general population improve their hand hygiene practices?
To ensure higher hygiene practices such as handwashing, merely producing products is not enough; rather tracking data and effective storytelling can help change the end users’ narrative (Hinds et al: 2017). A 2017 experiment conducted at Monash University gathered qualitative data from a sample of 20 interviews. The results were interesting observations made before and after providing a narrative of potential hygiene weak points, with respondents reacting positively, leading to greater hand hygiene standards (Hinds et al: 2017).
There’s a heavy price to be paid for poor hand hygiene practices. Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) reveals that hospital acquired infection costs $35.7-45 billion US dollars per year (Scott: 2009). The WHO research also suggests that hospital acquired infection has potentially led to at least 80,000 deaths in the United States (WHO: 2017).
Hospital acquired infections are primarily caused by poor hand hygiene along with lack of compliance to hand hygiene standards, which result in infections being spread to patients in hospitals. For the general population, this can potentially put many at risk of health complications as well, especially at the community level where poor hand hygiene practices will very likely lead to the spread of germs and viruses, resulting in illness or death in extreme cases.
While poor hand hygiene standards can increase the likelihood of spreading germs, bacteria and viruses amongst others, how long can such pathogens survive on different surfaces? The New England Journal of Medicine (2020) found some interesting discoveries with two separate viruses, SARS-CoV-2 (Coronavirus) and SARS-CoV-1 (Sars Virus), with both viruses decaying after a certain period of time on the following surfaces:
- Aerosols: 3 hours
- Plastics: 72 hours
- Stainless Steel: 72 hours
- Copper: 4-8 hours
- Cardboard: 8-24 hours
While viruses can last for up to three days on some surfaces, it is concerning that these pathogens can survive on common surfaces such as cardboard for up to 24 hours. This is particularly alarming in retail environments where poor hand hygiene practices could easily result in staff spreading viruses through contaminated cardboard cartons when stocking shelves. It can expose large numbers of people to potential health risks in retail outlets as well as the larger community.
Handwashing is an essential tool for disease prevention, which is why it’s important for people to uphold high hand hygiene standards throughout everyday life. The spread of viruses in the general population can be prevented through better hygiene and handwashing measures that will ensure harmful viruses, bacteria or germs are not left on surfaces for others.
Enware Australia offers a vast array of tapware solutions that can support your business and improve hand hygiene practices.
WHO. (2017). Evidence for Hand Hygiene Guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/gpsc/tools/faqs/evidence_hand_hygiene/en/
Scott, R. (2009). The direct medical costs of healthcare-associated infections in US hospitals and the benefits of prevention. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2009. In.
The New England Journal of Medicine (2020). Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1. Massachusetts Medical Society; 2020. USA.
John, K.J., Campbell, D., Armstrong, M.C., Degnan, A., Hinds, J. (2017). Non-Compliance and Hospital Acquired Infection: Using Design Methodologies to Improve Hand Hygiene Practices. Monash University. Australia