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___________________________            Date:  December 8, 2016

To:  Local Media

From:  Ann Hartman, MPH, Assistant Director – Community Health


Want an Easy Way to Prevent Illness?  It is National Handwashing Week!

Sometimes, simplicity is overlooked. The power of handwashing is one such example. The simple act of proper handwashing is like a “do-it-yourself” vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  Handwashing done the right way can prevent illness and the spread of infection. Since cold, flu and gastro-intestinal viruses are among us at work, school and anywhere else you have people congregating, it is timely to reconsider the steps of handwashing.

Follow the steps below to wash your hands the right way each time you wash them.

● Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

● Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

● Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Hint: Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.

● Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

● Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

When should you wash your hands?

● Before eating, during and after food preparation.

● Before and after taking care of someone who is sick or treating a wound.

● After using the toilet – every time. Also, after changing diapers, or helping a child who has used the toilet. (Assist the child to wash his/her hands as well.)

● After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. 

● After touching an animal, animal waste or animal feed or touching garbage.

What if you don’t have access to soap and water? Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) instead. Hand sanitizer does not remove all pathogens as effectively as soap and water. Be cautious in using hand sanitizer around children as ingesting more than a couple of mouthfuls in children can lead to alcohol poisoning.  

What are other simple ways to stay healthy and protect others? 

1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

2. Stay home when you are sick. Learn school guidelines on keeping sick children home too.

3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.  Germs are often spread when you touch something that is contaminated and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.

4. Practice other good health habits. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.