Preventative medicine expert speaks on handwashing

Harrisonburg, Virginia. – The future is literally in our hands. Hand washing is one of the easiest ways to minimize the spread of infectious diseases.

Global Handwashing Day on October 15 is a worldwide initiative that aims to raise awareness of the importance of hand washing. Wearing masks is at the forefront of disease prevention, but hand washing is just as important.

Catherine Zeman, director of the Health Sciences Academic Department at the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and a professor with degrees in nursing and preventive medicine, provides answers to common questions about hand hygiene.

Q: In which situations should you wash your hands?

A: The CDC recommends before, during and after food preparation, before and after eating, before and after caring for a sick person, before and after treating cuts, wounds or acne, after using the toilet, after changing diapers, after touching animals or cleaning up animal waste and washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after handling trash.

Q: What happens if someone doesn’t wash their hands?

A: If someone skips this step, they risk contaminating themselves, other surfaces, food, and other people with microbes that can cause and spread contagious and communicable diseases.

Q: Which diseases prevents hand washing?

A: There are probably others out there, but colds / flu, conjunctivitis, salmonellosis, mono, foot and mouth disease, CMV (cytomegalovirus), staph / strep, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), hepatitis A, giardiasis, hemolytic E. coli are a good place to start 0157H7. While the common cold isn’t very dangerous (unless the immune system is weakened), some medical conditions like 0157H7 have killed young children and weakened the immune system. All good reasons to avoid these microbes by washing your hands frequently.

Q: For good reason, the emphasis lately seems to have been on wearing masks. How can we bring hand washing back into conversation?

A: Events like this are great ways to start the conversation and remind people that when you look at the total number of cases at any one time in the U.S., the diseases and conditions listed above make up hundreds of thousands of ailments and diseases that can be prevented by just washes his hands.

The theme of Global Handwashing Day 2021 is “Our future is just around the corner – Let’s Move Forward Together”. This day is a global reminder of the importance of good hand hygiene for mutual health.

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Contact: Eric Gorton, gortonej@jmu.edu, 540-908-1760

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