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Help stop the spread of disease with this simple but effective tool

PROVO, UTAH (February 11, 2015) - - With many diseases circulating around the community, hand washing gives people the opportunity to take an active role in their own health. Hand washing is easy to do and it's one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness in all settings -- from home and workplace to child care facilities and hospitals.

Studies show that hand washing education in a community can reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31 percent and the number of respiratory illnesses, like the common cold, by 21 percent.

"Keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to keep from getting sick and spreading illnesses," Lance Madigan, Utah County Health Department public information officer. "Cleaning your hands gets rid of germs you pick up from other people, from the surfaces you touch, or even from the animals you come in contact with."

The Heart of the Matter

Despite the benefits, only 85 percent of adults washed their hands in public restrooms according to a study by the American Society for Microbiology. Health officials recommend washing hands anytime they get dirty, but particularly before cooking, eating, feeding a child as well as after using the toilet, changing a diaper, or handling pets.

To effectively wash hands, individuals should complete the following five steps:

  • Wet hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of hands, between fingers, and under nails.
  • Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

If soap and water arenít available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol should be used to clean hands. These sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. "Hand sanitizers don't remove germs or containments," said Madigan. "Their goal is to sterilize them. Obviously if you have too much on your hands, they are not as effective."

The Utah County Health Department is committed to promoting the health of our community by preventing avoidable disease and injury by monitoring the health of our community, responding to public health emergencies, and assuring conditions in which people can be healthy. For information on UCHD programs or services, please visit www.UtahCountyHealth.org or call 801-851-7000. You can also now follow the UCHD at www.FaceBook.com/uchealth, www.instagram.com/UtahCountyHealthDept, www.twitter.com/uchd, or www.pinterest.com/uchd.

This message brought to you by the Utah County Health Department and our partner state and local health departments.