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article imageHand washing is key to reducing infection risks

By Tim Sandle     Aug 8, 2015 in Health
London - A new Internet educational series, designed to encourage people to wash their hands more often, should lower the risk of catching and passing on infections. This is the finding of a new medical survey.
A new study examined some 16,000 households based the U.K. during the winter influenza season and correlate hand washing rates with incidences of viral infection. The survey found that across all types of infection (viral and bacterial), an increase in hand washing led to a 14 percent reduction in disease rates. For influenza viruses specifically, the reduction was 20 percent.
The basis of the study was that the typical person washes their hands between five and six times each day. If this is increased to 10 times a day then this alone is significant in lowering the risk of contracting a disease or spreading that disease to another person.
The new Internet-based education program, used for the trial, is called PRIMIT and it is composed of short Internet interactive sessions run over a four week period. The sessions cover:
Personalized information for you and the people you live with,
Medical facts about viruses to help explain how you catch them,
Simple advice on how to protect yourself from cold and flu viruses,
Support and tips on how to make these ideas easier,
Ongoing feedback and help with your progress.
In an independent review, Professor Chris van Weel, from Radboud University in the Netherlands, told BBC Science: "The investigators showed improved management of infections while using fewer antibiotics, which is in line with policies to counter the threat of population resistance to antibiotics."
This is all well and good, although assuming the van Weel has been selectively quoted, antibiotics are not effective against viruses and certainly ineffective against flu. The key message is that hand washing, at regular intervals, before meals and after using washrooms, is a key part of infection control.
The research was led by Professor Paul Little of the University of Southampton. The results of the study are published in the medical journal The Lancet. The research paper is "An internet-delivered handwashing intervention to modify influenza-like illness and respiratory infection transmission (PRIMIT): a primary care randomised trial."
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