6 Common Viruses and How You Can Avoid Spreading Them Plus, find out how long you could be contagious with each one

With cold and flu season fast approaching, there’s no doubt that you’ll be extra thorough in your efforts to protect yourself from germs and viruses this year. Before COVID-19, did you ever think about how long you could be contagious after catching a cold or having bronchitis, strep throat or the flu? If not, the answers just might surprise you.

As you’re being extra cautious to avoid catching or spreading the coronavirus, keep these helpful guidelines from family medicine physician Matthew J. Goldman, MD in mind so you don’t pass the following common illnesses on to others.

Are you contagious or not?

Common Cold

When are you probably the most contagious? Within the first 48-72 hours.

How long could you be contagious with a cold? Up to 2 weeks.

How does a common cold spread? Hand contact or droplets in the air.

How do you avoid infecting others? Cough/sneeze into your elbow and not your hands.
Stay home until symptoms improve and your fever resolves.

Hand hygiene: Clean your hands often with soap and water/alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Flu

When are you probably the most contagious? Within the first 48 hours.

How long could you be contagious with the flu? Up to 10 days.

How does the flu spread? Coughing/sneezing (sends large amounts of flu virus into air).

How do you avoid infecting others? Stay on top of hand hygiene.
Cough or sneeze into your elbow and not your hands.
Stay home until symptoms improve and fever resolves.

Hand hygiene: Clean your hands often with soap and water/alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Sore Throat/Strep

When are you probably the most contagious? Within the first 48-72 hours.

How long could you be contagious with a sore throat or strep? Three to four weeks if left untreated. You could be contagious with strep 24 to 48 hours after you start antibiotics.

How does a sore throat or strep spread? Saliva or nasal mucus/discharge (especially strep).

How do you avoid infecting others?
Avoid close contact with others.
Don’t share utensils or drinks.

Extra hand hygiene: Wash your hands with plain soap and water for 20-30 seconds; scrub your nails, wrists and between your fingers. Rinse thoroughly.

Bronchitis

When are you probably the most contagious? Within the first 48-72 hours.

How long could you be contagious with bronchitis? Up to 3 weeks.

How does bronchitis spread? Through droplets in the air and contaminated surfaces.

How can you avoid infecting others?
Be sure to step up your hand hygiene.
Promptly discard used tissue and wash your hands.
Get tested for the flu.

Extra hand hygiene: Wash your hands with plain soap and water for 20 to 30 seconds; scrub your nails, wrists and between your fingers. Rinse your hands thoroughly.

Pneumonia

When are you probably the most contagious? Within the first 48-72 hours.

How long could you be contagious with pneumonia? Up to three weeks.

How does pneumonia spread? Coughing or sneezing (you can infect anyone within 6 feet).

How can you avoid infecting others?
Extra hand hygiene.
Wash your hands before making meals.
Promptly discard used tissue and wash your hands.
Environmental cleaning.

Environmental cleaning: Frequently disinfect surfaces where infected droplets can collect.

Stomach Virus

When are you probably the most contagious? Within the first 24-48 hours.

How long could you be contagious with a stomach virus? It varies. Wait 48-72 hours after your symptoms resolve to return to school or work.

How does a stomach virus spread? Sharing food or utensils, contaminated surfaces or close contact.

How can you avoid infecting others?
Extra hand hygiene.
Environmental cleaning.
Avoid close contact with others.

Environmental cleaning: Frequently disinfect surfaces where infected droplets can collect.

Publihed September 3, 2020
By Clevelandclinic
https://health.clevelandclinic.org

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Essential hand hygiene a must when handling food products

Currently, there is no evidence that Covid-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.

However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices when handling or preparing foods. You should always wash your hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and put food in the fridge as soon as you can.

Food shopping advice

• Don’t go shopping if you have COVID-19 symptoms. You can order your groceries online, or have family or friends drop them off instead.

• When you go food shopping, you should wash your hands before you leave the house, avoid touching your face when you are out, and follow social distancing.

• When you return home, you should wash your hands straight away. Wash them again once you have unpacked and put away your shopping.

• It is not necessary to sanitise the outside of food packaging. While there is some evidence that the virus can survive on hard surfaces, the risk from handling food packing is very low and there is no evidence that the illness can be transmitted in this way.

• If you are sanitising surfaces or shopping bags, follow the manufacturer’s instructions about how much time is needed before wiping the sanitiser off.

• Gloves can give a false sense of security. They would need to be changed very frequently to be effective. It is better to wash your hands often and avoid touching your face.

Frequently asked questions

When I bring my grocery shopping into my home, could it be contaminated with the Coronavirus? What do I have to do to make sure it is safe?

While there is some evidence that the virus can survive on hard surfaces, the risk from handling food packing is very low and there is no evidence that the illness can be transmitted in this way. However, you should always put away your shopping as soon as you get home, especially perishable foods which must be stored in the fridge or freezer.

If I deliver food to a relative in isolation, what do I have to do it make sure it is safe?

Firstly, if you show any symptoms, you should not offer to deliver food. If you can, follow the food shopping advice above, and it might be best to leave the shopping at the door.

I have heard that sanitisers can only be used three or four times and then hands must be washed properly in hot soapy water. Is that true?

Thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water is best, but hand sanitisers are a good option when you don’t have access to soap and water, such as when you are out and about.

Can I wash my hands with cold water and soap? Is that adequate?

The temperature of the water is not that significant. The most important thing is that you wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and dry your hands thoroughly afterwards.

I am cocooning and I am worried about the safety of the food being left at my doorstep.

Always put away food as soon as you can, especially perishable foods which must be stored in the fridge or freezer. While there is some evidence that the virus can survive on hard surfaces, the risk from handling food packing is very low and there is no evidence that the illness can be transmitted in this way. However you should wash your hands once you have unpacked and put away your shopping.

Should I wipe down/clean all food packaging coming into my house?

It is not necessary to sanitise the outside of food packaging. While there is some evidence that the virus can survive on hard surfaces, the risk from handling food packing is very low and there is no evidence that the illness can be transmitted in this way.

You should follow the food shopping advice above and wash your hands before and after you go food shopping, and after you unpack your shopping.

Should I wear gloves when handling food packaging when unpacking it from a shop?

Gloves would need to be changed very frequently to be effective. It is better to wash your hands often and avoid touching your face.

When out food shopping, should I wear gloves and wipe down the basket/trolley I am using?

Gloves can give a false sense of security. They would need to be changed very frequently to be effective. It is better to wash your hands, or use hand sanitiser, and avoid touching your face.

Many shops are providing sanitiser to wipe trolley handles, as this is a high contact surface.

Published by Galway Puublisher
Thursdag 09-04-2020
https://www.advertiser.ie/galway

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Frequent Hand-Washing Tough on Those With Eczema

Hand-washing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses, but for people with skin conditions like eczema, lathering up frequently can lead to dryness, cracking, itchiness, pain and even an infection.

If you’re struggling to balance pandemic hand-washing and skin conditions, Dr. Jonathan Silverberg, a dermatologist at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., offers some advice.

Regular washing is better than hand sanitizer: When you cleanse with soap and water, then immediately apply moisturizer, you can “offset much of the drying effects of hand-washing,” Silverberg said in a news release from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. He recommends carrying a pocket tube of moisturizer so you can apply it on the go.

Avoid antiseptic and antibacterial soaps: You may not need them, as long as you scrub thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds and then rinse.

Moisturize properly: After washing, pat your hands until they are mostly dry, using a paper towel or tissue. “Once mostly dry, [i.e., your skin is still a little damp] apply a generous amount of moisturizer to coat the entire surface of your hands and fingers,” Silverberg said.

Beware of gloves plus sanitizer: To avoid irritation from hand-washing, some people with skin conditions wear disposable gloves and then use sanitizer on them — an approach Silverberg does not recommend. “When we apply hand sanitizer on our bare skin, we can feel if we covered the entire surface of the hands and fingers,” he said. “But when wearing gloves, we limit the ability to feel this and might miss some spots on the gloves and then accidentally carry some germs.” It makes more sense to change gloves and/or wash or sanitize hands often, Silverberg said.

Wear gloves when cleaning: Cleaning products are especially harsh on the skin. “People should always wear gloves when using antiseptic wipes and cleaning products,” Silverberg said.

Sterilize containers: If you carry bottles of soap and moisturizer with you, clean and sterilize the containers to remove harmful germs. And remember: Moisturizer should not be applied unless hands are clean, to prevent contaminating the product.
There’s more about hand hygiene at the National Eczema Association.

By Serena McNiff, HealthDay Reporter
Aug. 21, 2020
Copyright © 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


There's Another Benefit to Hand-Washing During Pandemic

Halogenated flame retardants, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are known to be a health risk to children. Previous research has shown that exposure to these chemicals can cause lower IQ and behavioral problems in children.

“It’s well-known that viruses are transferred between surfaces and hands,” said study co-author Miriam Diamond, a professor in the University of Toronto’s department of earth sciences.

“Our study shows that toxic chemicals like flame retardants do the same. That’s another reason we should all wash our hands often and well,” Diamond said in a university news release.

Study co-author Lisa Melymuk, an assistant professor of environmental chemistry at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, noted that “if a flame retardant is used in the TVs, we then find it throughout the house, including on the hands of the resident.”

And even though regular hand-washing can reduce your exposure to these chemicals, Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute in Berkeley, Calif., suggested that “to reduce health harm from flame retardants, the electronics industry should stop their unnecessary use.”

Blum said, “Fire safety can be achieved by innovative product design and materials instead of the use of toxic chemicals that can remain in our homes — and in us — for years to come.”


More information

The U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has more on flame retardants.

SOURCE: University of Toronto, news release, June 9, 2020

 

By Robert Preidt
Published: Last Updated:


Water & Sanitation This WHO-UNICEF Initiative Is Fighting so Everyone Can Wash Their Hands Against COVID-19

Nearly half of the world population can’t wash their hands at home.

Why Global Citizens Should Care

COVID-19 has been called an equaliser, because it doesn’t discriminate based on race, gender, geography, sexuality or religion. Yet, in the months since the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a pandemic, it’s become increasingly evident that people from marginalised communities and poor countries bear the brunt of the virus due to lack of access to resources, like water and sanitation. You can join us here to take actions to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the world’s most vulnerable communities.

It’s often been said that changing personal behaviour is vital in containing COVID-19: wearing a mask in public, maintaining social distance, and frequently washing hands with soap and clean water.

Yet for 3 billion people globally, access to hygiene is not as simple as turning on a tap, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

That’s 40% of the world population who cannot wash their hands with soap and water in their homes.

The majority are in sub-Saharan Africa, while children and people who live in informal settlements, refugee camps, or conflict areas are most affected by the continent’s lack of clean water and sanitation facilities.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF have recently launched a hand-washing initiative aimed at bringing attention to the plight of people who don’t have access to clean water and are, therefore, unable to protect themselves effectively from COVID-19.

“Hand hygiene has never been more critical, not only to combat COVID-19, but to prevent a range of other infections. Yet, nearly six months since the onset of the pandemic, the most vulnerable communities around the world continue to lack access to basic hand hygiene,” said the executive directors of UNICEF and WHO, Henrietta Fore and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a joint statement.

The statement added: “According to our [UNICEF and WHO] latest data, the majority of people in the least developed countries are at immediate risk of COVID-19 infection due to a lack of hand hygiene facilities.”

The statement said one billion people are at direct risk of contracting COVID-19 as a result of not having water and soap in their homes, and that almost half of then are children.

However, it’s not only homes that lack access to clean water, the statement added. “All too often, schools, clinics, hospitals and other public spaces also lack hand hygiene facilities, putting children, teachers, patients and health workers at risk. Globally, two in five in health care facilities do not have hand hygiene at points of care,” said the statement.

A report by World Vision revealed that nine out of 10 countries in the world with the worst access to water are African.

These include: Eritrea, where 81% of the population do not have clean drinking water. In Uganda, 61% of the population doesn’t have basic water services. The figures are 61% in Ethiopia, 60% in Somalia, 59% in Angola, 58% in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 58% in Chad, 54% in Niger, and 53% in Mozambique.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed an uncomfortable truth: too many people around the world simply cannot clean their hands,” said the statement.

UNICEF and WHO said they will be working through the initiative with other international partners, national governments, the public and private sectors, and community organisations to ensure that products and services are available and affordable, and to enable a culture of hygiene. This includes ensuring that handwashing stations are accessible, especially in disadvantaged areas and among marginalised communities.

“We must also ramp up investment in hygiene, water and sanitation, and in infection prevention and control,” said the statement. “We urge countries to scale up, systemise, and institutionalise hand hygiene and commit to strengthening the enabling environment, supply vital products and services, and to actively promote hygiene practices as part of a package of actions that save lives.”

You can join us to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the world’s most vulnerable and marginalised communities by taking action here.

By Lerato Mogoatlhe
Published July 2, 2020
https://www.globalcitizen.org


How better home hygiene could curb antibiotic resistance

Pharmacologists and infectious disease specialists say there is an urgent need to promote good hygiene in the home and in community settings. They believe that this will be essential in reducing antibiotic use and preventing the spread of drug-resistant bacteria in the coming years.

Rates of resistance to commonly used antibiotics have already reached 40–60% in some countries outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and are set to continue rising fast.

In OECD countries, rates of resistance could reach nearly 1 in 5 (or 18%) by 2030 for eight different bacterium-antibiotic combinations.

By 2050, about 10 million people could die each year as a result of resistance to antimicrobial agents.

While policymakers usually focus on hygiene in healthcare settings, such as hospitals, a group of pharmacology and infectious disease experts believes that improved hygiene in homes and community settings is just as important.

The scientists have published a position paper in the American Journal of Infection Control on behalf of the Global Hygiene Council.

“Although global and national [antimicrobial resistance] action plans are in place,” they write, “infection prevention and control is primarily discussed in the context of healthcare facilities with home and everyday life settings barely addressed.”

They have also launched a manifesto that calls on health policymakers to recognize the importance of this topic.

‘More urgent than ever’

Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing, can help reduce infections and antibiotic use, the authors argue. In turn, this will minimize the development of resistance.

“In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and evidence presented in this paper, it is more urgent than ever for policymakers to recognize the role of community hygiene to minimize the spread of infections, which, in turn, will help in reducing the consumption of antibiotics and help the fight against [antimicrobial resistance],” says lead author Prof. Jean-Yves Maillard from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that 35% of common infections are already resistant to currently available medicines, with this figure rising to 80–90% in some low and middle income countries.

Overuse of the drugs accelerates the development of resistance. In the United States, for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that of the 80–90% of antibiotic use that occurs outside hospitals, about half is inappropriate or unnecessary.

The authors point out that while the majority of bacteria that are multidrug-resistant (resistant to at least one agent in three or more antimicrobial classes) get picked up in hospitals, some have become prevalent in the community.

Patients leaving the hospital can carry methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) on their skin, for example, or resistant strains of enterobacteria in their gut. Resistant bacteria can then pass to other family members.

The authors write:

“Although the precise impact of hygiene on transmission of infection between community and healthcare settings needs further investigation, it is important to recognize that reducing the need for antibiotic prescribing and the circulation of [antimicrobial-resistant] strains in healthcare settings cannot be achieved without also reducing circulation of infections and [resistant] strains in the community. We cannot allow hygiene in home and everyday life settings to become the weak link in the chain.”

 

Hand washing is a crucial measure

They argue that better hand hygiene would prevent many infections in the home and in community settings, such as schools, nurseries, and workplaces.

Only about 19% of people wash their hands after using the toilet, according to a review of research that the paper cites. The same review found that hand washing reduces the risk of diarrhea by nearly one-quarter (23%) in studies with good methodological design.

Educating people to wash their hands with ordinary soap is one of the best ways to reduce infections, according to experts. Overall, research has shown that improvements in hand hygiene lead to a 21% reduction in respiratory illnesses and a 31% reduction in gastrointestinal illnesses.

In addition, the position paper highlights the problem of foodborne pathogens, including Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Escherichia coli. These affect millions of people globally every year, causing diarrhea and other debilitating symptoms.

A 2014 study in Mexico found Salmonella in almost all cleaning cloths. Soaking these dish clothes in a 2% solution of bleach twice a day reduced the bacteria by 98%.

Key risks and strategies

The authors identify key risk moments for transmitting infections in the home. These are:

• food handling, including contaminated chopping boards and kitchen sponges
• using the toilet
• changing a baby’s diaper
• coughing, sneezing, and nose blowing
• touching surfaces that others frequently touch
• handling and laundering clothing and household linen
caring for domestic animals
• disposing of refuse
• caring for an infected family member

As key strategies to combat infection in the home, they recommend:

• soap or detergent-based cleaning together with adequate rinsing
• alcohol-based hand sanitizer
• inactivation or eradication using a disinfectant on hard surfaces
• mechanical removal using dry wiping
• heating to at least 60°C (140°F)
• UV treatment
• a combination of the above

However, they note that further research is necessary to evaluate the extent to which these practices might contribute to preventing the transmission of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.

____________________________________

Written by James Kingsland on May 25, 2020 – Fact checked by Hilary Guite, FFPH, MRCGP

Published: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com


Hygiene reduces the need for antibiotics by up to 30%

Everyday hygiene reduces the need for antibiotics by up to 30%, helping to prevent daily deaths from antimicrobial resistance (AMR), new paper reveals.

According to a new Position Paper published in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC) online, improved everyday hygiene practices, such as hand-washing, reduces the risk of common infections by up to 50%, reducing the need for antibiotics, by up to 30%. Global public health experts responsible for the Position Paper, are now calling for home and community hygiene to become part of strategic plans to reduce hundreds of thousands of deaths from AMR globally each year.

As witnessed during the recent global efforts to delay the spread of COVID-19, hygiene practices, including hand-washing, have become an essential part of everyone’s daily routine and are considered to be the first line of defence in reducing the spread of common infections. However, national and international AMR strategies, while focussing on the important role of hygiene in the healthcare setting, fail to recognise the key role that home and community hygiene plays.

This Position Paper, developed on behalf of the Global Hygiene Council (GHC), and published online in AJIC, explores the role of targeted hygiene in the home and everyday life settings to reduce antibiotic prescribing and its likely impact on antibiotic resistance. It provides evidence that practising hand hygiene in homes and community settings can prevent infections and therefore reduce the need for antibiotics. One intervention study demonstrated a 30% reduction of antibiotic prescriptions for common respiratory infections in a group who used hand sanitisers compared with a control group.

The Position Paper, also demonstrates the increasing prevalence of multidrug-resistant bacteria in the home and community. It is considered that 35% of common infections occurring in healthcare and the community are already resistant to antibiotics, and that in some low-and middle-income countries, resistance to antibiotics is as high as 90%,4 causing 2,000 people to die every day globally.

According to the lead author, Jean-Yves Maillard, Professor of Pharmaceutical Microbiology at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, at Cardiff University; “In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and evidence presented in this Paper, it is more urgent than ever for policy makers to recognise the role of community hygiene to minimise the spread of infections, which in turn will help in reducing the consumption of antibiotics and help the fight against AMR.

To coincide with the publication of the Paper, the GHC has launched a Manifesto calling upon national and international policy makers, health agencies and healthcare professionals to further recognise the importance of hygiene in the home and everyday life settings and acknowledge the following:

1/ IPC committees, responsible for implementing national AMR plans, should recognise that improved hand and surface hygiene in the home and community are key to minimise the spread of infections and as a consequence the consumption of antibiotics, which will then help in the fight against AMR. To achieve this, recommendations for improved hygiene in the wider community should be included in global AMR action plans by 2022 and in all national plans by 2025.

2/ IPC advice, guidance and education for HCPs on hand and surface hygiene and its relation to AMR should not be limited to healthcare settings, but also include recommendations to influence the wider community with immediate effect.

3/ Relevant medical associations should ensure messaging around home and community hygiene is cascaded to members through amending on-going and existing AMR training and education.

With evidence to show that home and community hygiene urgently needs to be taken more seriously, it is time for the global community to collaborate and recognise that reducing the need for antibiotic prescribing and the circulation of AMR strains in healthcare settings cannot be achieved without also reducing the circulation of infections and AMR strains in the community.

The Position Paper ‘Reducing antibiotic prescribing and addressing the global problem of antibiotic resistance by targeted hygiene in the home and everyday life settings,’ was developed on behalf of the Global Hygiene Council, following a scientific meeting in London 2019 with global hygiene, AMR and public health experts.

Published by: https://www.eurekalert.org/

References:

Curtis V, Cairncross S. Effect of washing hands with soap on diarrhoea risk in the community: a systematic review. Lancet Infect Dis. May 2003; 3 (5): 275-81

Azor-Martinez E, Yui-Hifume R. Effectiveness of a hand hygiene program at child care centers: a cluster randomized trial. Pediatrics. November 2018;142 (5). Available from:ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30297500 (Accessed 15 April 2020)

amr-review.org/

Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance. No Time to Wait. Securing the Future from Drug-Resistant Infections. April 2019. Available from: https://www.who.int/antimicrobial-resistance/interagency-coordination-group/IACG_final_report_EN.pdf?ua=1. (Accessed April 15, 2020.)

Review on Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling Drug-resistant Infections Globally. 2014. Available from: https://amr-review.org/Publications.html. Accessed July 3, 2019.


How Do You Wash Your Hands To Fend Off Coronavirus If Water Is Scarce?

It’s something we’ve heard again and again from health authorities in the coronavirus pandemic. Wash your hands. Frequently. With soap and water. For at least 20 seconds. That’s an effective way to eliminate viral particles on your hands.

But for the 2.2 billion people in the world who lack safe drinking water — mostly in low- and middle-income countries — that advice will be difficult to heed. In these places, water is scarce for a number of reasons. It could be due to drought or climate change. Or local water supplies could be contaminated. Or the nearest source of water may be far away from home.

Aid groups and public health officials are doing all they can to help people in these communities overcome the obstacles and wash up. Washing your hands, they say, is a small action that can make a huge difference in the coronavirus pandemic.

“Hand-washing is one important tool to check and control spread,” says Amanda Glassman, executive vice president at the think tank Center for Global Development — along with other known interventions such as testing, isolating the sick and social distancing.

Water that is safe enough to drink is the best option for hand-washing. The ideal is to use clean, running water to wash away germs because it is less likely to contain harmful pathogens like e-coli, which can make you sick.

So how do you get water to those in need? Aid groups can truck in vast amounts of water, for example, but many say that’s expensive and unsustainable.

In less than ideal circumstances, other types of water can be used to wash hands. Non-potable water (for example, water that’s been used to clean dishes or do laundry) — along with soap — can be effective, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Small-scale solutions work, too – like setting up a network of public hand-washing stations – something done in West Africa during the Ebola outbreak of 2014. “When Ebola hit, one of the big concerns was the lack of running water and sanitation for hand-washing and proper waste disposal,” says Joia Mukherjee, chief medical officer of Partners In Health and associate professor of global health at Harvard Medical School. “It almost seemed like an unsolvable problem. And yet relatively rapidly, solutions were put together.”

The simplest kind of hand-washing station needs just two buckets. One bucket contained a mix of chlorine and water for the washing, with a spigot so people could tap into the supply, she explains. A second bucket, underneath the spigot, caught the wastewater.

These hand-washing stations were put in public buildings, schools and markets in Ebola-affected areas — and public health officials stressed why it was important to wash hands. Soon “people adopted this hand-washing technique everywhere,” says Mukherjee.

Mukherjee was heartened to see these stations again in February on trips to Liberia and Sierra Leone — set up by the countries’ health authorities to combat the spread of coronavirus. “I was very pleasantly surprised that they had already re-initiated this type of hand-washing at airports and outside of public buildings like the Ministry of Health. The lessons learned from Ebola were immediately being used.”

This kind of innovation is exactly what the developing world needs right now to ward off coronavirus, says Glassman, who is the author of Millions Saved: New Cases of Proven Success in Global Health. “We should deploy and test everything we’ve got,” she says, citing the hand-washing stations. “Affordability and fast availability is what matters now.”

The lower the technology, the better, says Glassman. If people can use objects and materials available in their own communities, like buckets, it makes the solution more likely to work.

One such device — which has been praised by global water researchers — is the SE200 Community Chlorine Maker. Developed by the global organization PATH, it can make chlorine from just water, salt and a car battery. Chlorine is commonly used to disinfect water because it kills many bacteria and viruses but isn’t always easy to obtain. The clean water can then be used to safely wash hands.

In preparation for the surge in coronavirus cases, 13 countries from sub-Saharan Africa as well as from Myanmar and Vietnam have put in requests to PATH for the devices. The group is finalizing logistics to get them up and running.

Then there’s the question of how to keep hand-washing stations safe from being a hot spot for disease transmission. Myriam Sidibe, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, is working with the aid group WaterAid in Kenya to figure that out. They are trying to find ways to make 10,000 water stations across the country safe for people to congregate around.

The plan is introduce “social distancing nudges on the ground, similar to what we are seeing in supermarkets in some countries,” says Sidibe, who is based in Nairobi. “These can be red dots painted on concrete or if the surface is more uneven you can get stones or pieces of wood and sort of partially bury it in the dirt and then paint the visible bit red.”

As for soap, it’s not as much of a problem as water.

Soap is available to purchase almost everywhere in the world, says Sidibe. Most people, including those living in poverty in rural and urban areas, have some kind of basic soap, even if just for laundry, she says.

But in this time of crisis, soap supplies may run short — or people who lose their income because of the pandemic may find soap is not affordable.

In New Delhi, Sudhanshu S. Singh, CEO of the nonprofit Humanitarian Aid International, has been collecting donations of soap and hand sanitizer — increasingly in short supply as the city is in lockdown — for the 1,000 refugee families he serves in Delhi.

The families fled Pakistan from persecution and are living in camp settlements in a slum. Because they are stateless, they don’t have the same rights to water as Indians living in the slum, says Singh, and have even less access to water. “They’re living in absolute abysmal conditions. They’re vulnerable to different kinds of diseases and health issues. Eventually the virus is going to affect them.”

So far, he’s distributed a 15-day ration of hygiene materials and taught them proper hand-washing. To ensure the families have enough water to wash their hands, he and other groups petitioned the government to bring more water to the part of the slum where the refugees live. Last week, the authorities brought in a tanker of water to provide additional supply for drinking and hand-washing and will do so regularly.

But offering soap and water is no guarantee that people are going to wash their hands. In every country, from high income to low income, there are a lot of folks for whom a thorough scrub is not a regular habit.

“Just instructing people to wash their hands is not going to get them to do it,” says Sidibe, who previously worked at a project at Unilever focused on changing hand-washing behaviors in 55 countries. “People don’t practice hand-washing. It’s inconvenient and they have other priorities. To change behavior, you need to create an enabling environment. You need to establish a positive social norm. And you need to make it a desirable thing to do.”

In Nigeria, where there are only 111 reported coronavirus cases so far, aid groups like UNICEF have been emphasizing the importance of hand-washing in the low-income areas they serve. “We are trying to spread the message through celebrities, community and religious leaders, and reaching out to media and radio stations,” says Zaid Jurji, head of UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene program, based in Abuja.

They’re collaborating with artists to sing about hand-washing, too.

On Sunday, UNICEF posted “We go win (Corona)” to their YouTube channel. It’s an original song from the popular Nigerian musician Cobhams Asuquo.

The lyrics go, “Corona no big pass us … as long as we remember to always do the right thing: wash your hands, love each other, we go win.”

The idea that a song could change behavior may seem naive, but it did work during the Ebola outbreak.

By Malaka Gharib
Published March 30, 2020
https://www.npr.org


The simple power of hand-washing

Myriam Sidibe is a warrior in the fight against childhood disease. Her weapon of choice? A bar of soap. For cost-effective prevention against sickness, it’s hard to beat soapy hand-washing, which cuts down risk of pneumonia, diarrhea, cholera and worse. Sidibe, a public-health expert, makes a smart case for public-private partnerships to promote clean hands — and local, sustainable entrepreneurship.

This talk was presented at a TED Institute event given in partnership with Unilever. TED editors featured it among our selections on the home page. Read more about the TED Institute.

READ MORE ABOUT MYRIOAM SIDIBE
Meet Myriam Sidibe, she has a PhD in hand-washing >>


“The very sight of her hands did almost turn my stomach”: a brief history of hand-washing

As the disease known as coronavirus spreads around the world, the public has received one key piece of advice: hand-washing is our best defence. But what would our ancestors have made of this tactic? Katherine Harvey explores for HistoryExtra…

Contrary to the popular belief that people in the Middle Ages were disgustingly smelly and dirty, medieval people frequently washed their hands, usually on rising and before and after meals. This was not just a case of good manners; they were well aware of the link between dirt and illness. Consequently, the 14th-century surgeon John of Arderne required prospective apprentices to have “clene handes and wele shapen nailes…clensed fro all blaknes and filthe”. Hand-washing mattered because it was seen to remove both external dirt and harmful bodily excretions.

This dual concern with dirt and bodily excrement continued into the Renaissance. Italian physician Tommaso Rangone (1493–1577) advised that hands must regularly “be cleaned of superfluities, sweat and grime that nature often deposits in those places”. Other medical writers also recognised that hands could transmit disease, although their concerns focused on skin diseases such as scabies, rather than the more well-known plague. Therefore, hand-washing was thought to be necessary for good health.

Hands must regularly ‘be cleaned of superfluities, sweat and grime that nature often deposits in those places’

Early modern concerns about hand hygiene often focused on meals, so most people washed before and after eating. Some advice books insisted that even clean hands must be rewashed at the table, using a basin and ewer, so that everyone else would feel reassured about sharing food. As such, poor hygiene could provoke real repugnance: after dining with his Uncle Wight in 1663, Samuel Pepys recorded that “the very sight of my aunt’s hands…did almost turn my stomach”.

17th-century diarist Samuel Pepys.

 

Georgian polite society fretted a great deal about servants’ hands, particularly in relation to food preparation and table service. The 18th-century author Eliza Haywood required her maids to wash their hands regularly, and other employers made serving staff keep their hands “in open view, neat and clean”, according to a conduct book of the day. Jonathan Swift’s Directions to Servants (1745) specifically criticised domestic helpers who prepared salads with unwashed hands after handling meat or visiting the lavatory.

In the 19th century, scientists such as Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister made significant advances in germ theory and its practical applications, which explained why hand-washing works in curbing the spread of disease. Though perhaps lesser known, another important pioneer was the Vienna-based Hungarian obstetrician Ignaz Semmelweis (1818–65), who realised that labouring women caught puerperal fever from doctors who went straight from the morgue to the delivery room. He proved that maternal mortality could be drastically cut by routine hand-washing with a chlorine solution.

This revolutionary new knowledge had surprisingly little immediate impact, partly due to resistance from physicians who resented being blamed for their patients’ deaths. Nevertheless, the following decades saw frequent attempts to persuade the wider public of the value of hand hygiene, the motivations for which were sometimes concerned as much with reaping profits as promoting public health. In the 1920s, the soap manufacturing company Lever Brothers ran a Clean Hands Campaign that urged children to wash their hands “before breakfast, before dinner and after school”. Their Lifebuoy soap was marketed as the best way to tackle germs, as in a 1927 advert in which a father advises his son that “Dirty hands are dangerous”. This wise parent practises what he preaches, using the product several times each day.

Adverts such as this had considerable impact, but their message still bears repeating. Despite centuries of advice, many of us are no better than the “plaine people in the countrie” who riled the Tudor physician William Bullein – because they would not clean their filthy hands.

Katherine Harvey is a historian of medieval Europe based at Birkbeck, University of London.

By Katherine Harvey

Published at HistoryExtra; The official website for BBC History Magazine, BBC History Revealed and BBC World Histories Magazine
March 5, 2020 at 1:08 pm

https://www.historyextra.com