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The cost of poor hand hygiene


Hand washing compliance rates and techniques to improve them

Last year, outbreaks of E. Coli at Chipotle and norovirus on several cruise lines made the headlines. Those news-grabbing cases, coupled with the current cold and flu season, illustrate the importance of proper hand hygiene.
Although hand washing is critical in preventing the spread of illnesses, compliance rates remain low.
“It’s abysmal,” says Darrel Hicks, infection prevention consultant in St. Louis and author of Infection Prevention for Dummies.
A 2013 study by Michigan State University found that only 5 percent of people properly washed their hands after using the restroom. Other studies cite rates as high as 50 percent, but most agree that at least half of all people fail at hand hygiene — and that can have severe consequences, says Loie Couch, infection prevention specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.
“If your hands are contaminated, you can transmit that to as many as seven different surfaces,” she says. “And consider the consequences when Hepatitis B can survive on surfaces for seven days. Other things can survive for t ...

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