SA lags behind best disease barrier

Sixty percent of all South Africans do not wash their hands with soap and water. This compares poorly to other countries, even India.

Life Health Care South Africa released the disturbing statistic shortly ahead of the UN’s fifth Global Hand Washing Day on 15 October. The campaign was started to get school children from seventy countries to wash their hands as a key way to prevent the spread of disease.    

Soap acts as a ‘vaccine’ against a wide range of diseases and neglecting to wash your hands – especially after having gone to the toilet – is tempting fate.  A single gram of human faeces can contain 10 million viruses and one million bacteria. Faeces is the main source of diarrhoeal pathogens, and poor hand washing practices may lead to diseases like typhoid, cholera and the more common gastro-enteric infections.

Research shows that children in households exposed to regular hand washing promotion had half the diarrheal rates of children not exposed to hand washing practices. 

Importance of washing your hands

Washing your hands with soap and water and cleaning household surfaces with disinfectant can also reduce the risk of respiratory infections by as much as 70%.

Joining the campaign for improved hand washing, South African hygiene expert Initial says this simple act will reduce infectious diseases by a meaningful percentage, as 80% of these diseases are spread through touch.

By teaching children to wash their hands with soap and water, South Africans will help to reduce communicable diseases like childhood pneumonia, colds and flu. Nearly 60% of childhood deaths are caused by infectious diseases, says the World Health Organisation.

As hospitals and places like doctors’ waiting rooms have a natural concentration of organisms due to the presence of patients with various diseases, proper hand washing in these healthcare facilities should be a high priority to reduce transmission of infectious agents, adds a Lifecare spokesperson.

“And with South Africa’s poor ranking in hand hygiene, this may cause concern for health practitioners across the country,” observes Rentokil Initial’s communications manager Nathalie Leblond.

Adopting good hand hygiene practices remains the easiest and most effective approach to combat a wide range of diseases that still trouble the world. To get all South Africans to wash their hands with soap and water should be national priority.   

(Press release, October 2012) 

Read more:

Washed hands sees drop in disease

Good bacteria vs. bad bacteria

Cholera epidemic worse in West Africa

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