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Wash Your Hands:
The Right Way


Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. 1

Here are the reasons why . . .

  • There are many types of germs (viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi) that cause many types of illnesses - including the common cold or flu, foodborne illness, Lyme disease, hantavirus, or plague. These germs can spread easily from one person to another - and have wide-reaching effects.

  • One of the most common ways people catch colds is by rubbing their noses or eyes after touching someone or something that's contaminated with the cold virus (rhinovirus).18

      Nearly 22 million school days are lost annually due to the common cold.2

    More than two-thirds (32 million) of school-aged children (aged 5?17 years) in the United States missed school in the past 12 months due to illness or injury.20

      52.2 million cases of the common cold affect Americans under age 17 each year.3

    About 10 million U.S. adults (ages 18 - 69) were unable to work during 2002 due to health problems.17

    Frequent handwashing and not sharing items such as cups, glasses, and utensils with an infected person should decrease the spread of virus to others.18

  • Some foodborne illnesses are spread through lack of hand cleaning. In fact, certain strains of E. coli, salmonella, and other bacteria can live on surfaces like cafeteria tables and doorknobs for up to two hours.4

  • Rotavirus - a germ that causes gastrointestinal illness - can be transferred from a dry, smooth surface to a clean hand for as long as 20 minutes after the surface has been contaminated.5
  • Salmonella infections are responsible for an estimated 1.4 million illnesses each year. 17

  • Infectious disease accounts for millions of lost school days and cost the U.S. $120 billion a year. 6,17

  • Diarrhea is second only to the common cold as a cause of lost working time, with about 25 days lost from work or school each year for every 100 Americans.7,8

  • Teacher illness costs time and money - not to mention the negative effects that teacher absences may have on student learning. In fact, teachers can be absent from school more days a year than students. One study found that teacher illness-related absences averaged 5.3 days a year, in contrast to an average of 4.5 days a year for students.9
  • More than 160,000 people in the U.S. die yearly from an infectious disease.17
  • The 15 leading causes of death in the US for 2006 include influenza and pneumonia.19

  • Students don't clean their hands often or well enough. In one study, only 58% of female and 48% of male middle and high school students washed their hands after using the bathroom. Of these, only 33% of the females and 8% of the males used soap.10
  • Adult hand cleaning behaviors also need improvement.In one study, 92% said they always wash their hands in public restrooms, but only 77% were observed doing so.11
  • Hand cleaning and basic hygiene habits are generally learned during early childhood. But people need to be reminded periodically about the importance of clean hands to wash them as often and thoroughly as they should.12,13 Research suggests that it is important for hygiene lessons to be repeated during the K-12 school curricula.

  • One study involving Detroit school children showed that scheduled handwashing, at least four times a day, can reduce gastrointestinal illness and related absences by more than 50%.14
  • A case-control study of 6,080 school children showed that those who used classroom-dispensed, instant hand sanitizers at specific times during the day, in addition to normal hand cleaning habits, experienced 20% fewer absences due to illness.15
  • A four-week handwashing program for a class of first grade students was associated with fewer absences and prescribed antibiotics than were reported the previous school year.16

    So there you have it . . . clean hands are key
    to good health for the whole school community!


    Healthy Schools, Healthy People, It’s a SNAP! (School Network for Absenteeism Prevention). Established 2003. The information contained in this website was compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cleaning Institute®. This information is not copyrighted. It is for educational purposes only.

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