By Abolanle Ogunlami
VIRAL and bacterial infections have become a threat to the health and well-being of adults and children in every society, from highly developed to developing countries. Hence, it is an aspect that ought to be given a special attention in order to curb the spread of infection.
Every member of the society, be it market women and men, patients, families, health care personnel, has an important role to play in keeping one another safe. When everyone plays his/her part in ensuring a safe and healthy lifestyle; illness contacted through infections will be reduced to barest minimum.
Hands are the main transmitter of germs due to their basic function of carrying out almost all tasks in everyday work. A study done by the University of Arizona showed that flu spreads in workplace very fast with only one contaminated employee. The study found that within four hours, over 50 percent of surfaces and employees were contaminated.
Hands frequently come in contact with germs from mobile phones, keyboards, door handles, staircase rails, vending machines, microphones, currency notes, rest rooms, handshakes, shopping malls, among others. Without noticing it, hands are used most often to cover mouth when coughing, yawning, wiping runny noses and rub itchy eyes, making it easy for germs to be transmitted.
Many people don’t wash their hands frequently or adequately enough to successfully fight against infection. A study by Michigan State University showed that five percent of people wash their hands correctly, leaving 95 per cent not doing it well.
Proper hand washing is the best way to stop the spread of bacteria as almost 80 per cent of germs are spread by hand alone. If all are conscious of this and do their best to properly wash their hands, the society will be close to being categorised as healthy. It is an important attitude everyone must embrace as part of daily activities to stay healthy.
The significance of hand washing by patients was conceptualised in the early 19th century. That was when evidence-based fact was provided that hand decontamination can significantly reduce incidences of fever and maternal mortality. The first global handwashing day was observed on October 15, 2008, and on May 5, 2009 the World Health Organisation, WHO, highlighted the importance of hand hygiene and launched guidelines and tools on hand hygiene.
The Global Handwashing Day, celebrated every October 15 yearly is a campaign to motivate and mobilise people around the world to improve their handwashing habits at critical points during the day and washing with soap. It is dedicated to raising awareness of handwashing with soap as a key factor in disease prevention.
Behavioural change in some aspects of daily lifestyle can reduce death rates and occurrence of some illnesses in the society. One of the behaviours that promote good health that every member of the society must understand and embrace is washing of hands frequently before and after caring for someone who is sick, visiting the rest rooms, before cooking and eating, after blowing noses, coughing or sneezing; after touching an animal, animal feed or waste; after handling pet food and after touching garbage.
According to data from UNICEF, one in every four childhood deaths under age five globally results from diarrhea and pneumonia, especially in developing countries. Sam Stephens, head of Clean the World Foundation, a non-profit organisation, said these deaths through diarrhea and pneumonia are more than that from AIDs, malaria and Tuberculosis combined.
According to him: “Just handwashing with soap as simple as it is can reduce death rates from these diseases up to 65per cent. When people wash their hands in the right way at the right time, it can be more effective than medication and vaccine. It helps to stop antibiotic resistant bacteria from spreading and reduce infections in hospitals.
According to WaterAid Nigeria communication Officer, Oluseyi Abdulmalik, no fewer than 59,500 children under five year in Nigeria die every year due to diarrhea which is caused by dirty water, poor toilets and poor hygiene. He revealed in a statement released to commemorate the 2018 handwashing day that about 157 million Nigerians lack access to handwashing facilities and only 16 per cent of Nigeria hospitals have facilities within their premises to dispense clean water.
Several choices are usually available to deal with health problems in our society.
These choices are referred to as interventions. In choosing a particular intervention, due consideration must be paid to whether it will give the desired outcome or result; that is: will it reduce death and improve the desired quality of life? The cost implication of the intervention must be considered; the one that gives greater return on investment must be considered, especially when resources are limited. The one that gives most output in terms of reduction in deaths, diseases at lowest cost will be most preferred.
Compared to other health interventions, investment in handwashing is cheaper and can save the government a lot of resources. It will reduce additional health care cost when incidences of outbreak of illnesses are reduced. Resources spent on drugs, vaccines and other health issues can be used by the government to provide other things needed in the society. When handwashing is embraced, it will boost productivity and reduce loss of lives due to spread of infection among the populace.
For a successful hand hygiene programme, clean water and hand sanitizers must be available at strategic places such as offices, market places, schools and homes. Awareness on how to correctly wash hands with soap and other ways to stay healthy should be created through signs and posters placed at critical areas like restrooms, kitchens and public places.
For proper handwashing, experts illustrated the steps to include; removal of jewelry if any and rinse hands under running water preferably warm water, apply soap and rub hand together, cover all surfaces of hands and fingers with soap and water. Wash thoroughly under running water, dry hands with a single use towel or use air drying. If disposable towels are used, throw in trash immediately.
When every member of the society embrace the attitude of washing hands at every point in time, the risk of cross-transmission of infection and occurrence of some illnesses will be reduced. There should be adequate awareness to members of the public with special emphasis on parents and caregivers. Children should be taught and encouraged to imbibe the attitude of washing their hands at critical times before and after putting their hands in their mouths or eating.