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Today, (Tuesday, 5th May, 2020), the HSE marks the World Health Organisation Hand Hygiene Day with the message: Hand hygiene is one of the most important things that we can do to stop the spread of Covid-19 infection.

Professor Martin Cormican, HSE National Lead for Antibiotic Resistance and Infection Control, says: “Most years when Hand Hygiene Day comes around we wonder how we will find a fresh way to talk to people about the importance of hand hygiene in preventing infection. This year it is all very different. Preventing infection with Covid-19 is now on everyone’s mind.

“A lot of people are using disposable gloves in everyday life. So, one of our key messages this year for hand hygiene day is that we do not recommend using gloves while doing your shopping or when you are out and about. If there are bugs on your gloves those bugs often end up on your hands when you take the gloves off and from there they can very easily end up in your mouth, nose and eyes. It’s much better to clean your hands regularly and properly. Even in special settings such as hospitals where gloves are valuable there is still a need to perform hand hygiene when the gloves come off. In hospitals gloves are single use for single patient care tasks.

“Hand hygiene is one of the most important things that we can do to stop the spread of Covid-19 infection, as well as preventing all the other infections that are still out there. This is true for people who work as healthcare workers and also for everyone in the home or in the workplace. Recent research undertaken by the Department of Health shows that in relation to safe behaviours, 96% of people are washing their hands more often as a result of Covid-19. The research also shows that 90% of people who are looking ahead say that they will continue to wash their hands frequently after the pandemic. We want people to keep on going with their hand hygiene, help your children to learn good hand hygiene and help us to stop the spread of Covid-19 and other infections.”

How you can help protect yourself and your family from an infection or superbug:

Wash your hands properly and often:

  • After coughing or sneezing
  • Before and after eating
  • Before and after preparing food
  • Before and after touching an open sore or cut
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing a child’s nappy
  • If you were in contact with someone who has a fever or respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing)
  • Before and after being on public transport
  • On entering and before leaving buildings, including your home
  • After touching animals or animal waste
  • After removing gloves, if you wear gloves
  • Before and after entering a hospital or residential setting.

Regular use of a hand moisturiser will protect your hands from the drying effects of hand hygiene products. If you have dry skin or a skin condition, apply moisturiser after washing and drying your hands.

How clean is your tech?

Computers, phones and mobiles are a constant in lives, we can’t work without them, but how clean are they? Research has shown that PCs, keyboards, phones etc. are full of bacteria – a mouse has an average of 260 bacteria per square centimetre, a keyboard has 511 cm sq, and the mouthpiece of a telephone has an impressive 3,895! Make sure you clean your equipment even if you are working from home.

The toilet is fine – but watch out for the handles, taps and air hand dryers…

The real danger is not the toilet but the handles and taps. Don’t touch the toilet seat with your hands if it’s visibly dirty. Our skin acts as a protective barrier when we use the toilet – it is the largest organ in the human body. Drying your hands with paper towel will reduce the bacterial count by 45 to 60% on your hands. However, using a hand dryer will increase the bacteria on your hands by up to 255% because it blows out bacteria already living in the dryer’s warm, moist environment.

“Nurses and midwives, clean care is in your hands!”

Celebrated every year on 5 May, Hand Hygiene Day mobilizes people around the world to increase adherence to hand hygiene in health care facilities, thus protecting health care workers and patients from infections.

This year, the campaign theme “SAVE LIVES: Clean your hands”, is aligned with the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, and aims to recognize nurses and midwives as front-line heroes who deserve acknowledgement and appreciation, and highlight their critical roles in infection prevention.

2020 Campaign Objectives

The main goal of the Global Hand Hygiene Day campaign is to recognize that handwashing is one of the most effective actions you can take to reduce the spread of pathogens and prevent infections, including the COVID-19 virus. Health workers and community members alike can play a role in preventing infections by practicing regular and frequent handwashing.

As part of the 2020 campaign, WHO and partners aim to:

  • Make hand hygiene a global priority
  • Inspire hand hygiene and behavior change
  • Engage with health care workers in their role in clean care and the prevention of infections.

The campaign also makes a call to action to policy-makers to provide safe work environments for nurses and improve staffing levels. Additionally, it calls on infection prevention and control leaders to empower nurses and midwives in providing clean care. The campaign also contributes to the United Nations Secretary General’s Global Call to Action on WASH in health care facilities.

On 5 May, join us in celebrating nurses and midwives around the world, by:

  • Sharing campaign promoting campaign materials available on the campaign website
  • Taking part in WHO’s #SafeHands Challenge
  • Clapping for nurses and midwives at noon on 5 May to thank and recognize their critical role in delivering clean care. Take a video or picture and share on your social media channels with #HandHygiene, #SupportNursesandMidwives.

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