September 18, 2006

The increased prevalence of staphylococcus infections (community and hospital acquired), the threat of pandemic flu, and the upcoming cold season has prompted the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) to issue its second Clean Hands Report Card, giving the United States a C-minus, a downgrade from the C received in 2004.

Nancy Bock, SDA vice president, cautions that it is more important than ever that people understand that clean hands save lives. “It is the places we’re at every day where we need to protect ourselves the most … anywhere we come in contact with other people’s germs.

The survey reported startling results:

•68% of respondents do not wash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds to effectively remove germs;
•36% of respondents seldom or never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing;
•31% do not always wash before eating, thereby increasing the odds that germs that come from money, door handles, and the lunch counter could be in their food.

SDA produced the report card to raise awareness of National Clean Hands Week (September 17-23), a national health campaign that touts hand washing as the easiest path to staying healthy. The report card surveyed Americans on basic hand hygiene practices such as washing before a meal, after using the bathroom, and after coughing or sneezing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that washing hands thoroughly is the single most important thing one can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illness to others, but only 50% of those surveyed believed that hand washing is the number one way to prevent colds and flu.

SDA offers a How-to-Wash refresher course on the associations Web site:

Source: The Soap and Detergent Association