Infection :: Wash your hands to prevent the spread of infection, say doctors

As the cold and flu season approaches the BMA is calling on adults and children to follow basic hygiene rules to prevent the spread of infections.

The new BMA report ‘The prevention and treatment of viral respiratory disorders’ states that simple measures like hand washing and not coughing and sneezing over people, will help prevent the spread of infection in the event of a major outbreak of flu.

The report provides a checklist of simple measures for people to follow, for example:
Wash hands – especially before and after preparing food and after using the toilet.
Alcohol gel – this can be used as an alternative to hand washing with soap and water.
Clean surfaces thoroughly – viruses can survive for up to two days or more so it is important to clean surfaces.
Be aware that viruses are easily transmitted via surfaces such as handrails, newspapers and keyboards, it is therefore important to wash hands regularly.
Use disposable [paper] tissues – this allows for the easy disposal of potential infectious materials.
Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze – droplets produced by coughing and sneezing that come into contact with another person can transmit infection.
Make sure you wash your hands after covering your mouth with your hand when coughing and sneezing.
Get vaccinated if you are in a high risk group– over 65 year olds and people with chronic illnesses which make them at risk should make sure they get vaccinated against flu, GPs can advise their patients about this.

The BMA Head of Science and Ethics, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, said today:

“It is alarming how many people do not follow basic hygiene rules like washing their hands after going to the toilet or covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze. It is worrying that if children don’t see their parents following these simple rules it is unlikely they will get into the habit of following them either.

“In the event of a major outbreak of flu these simple measures will be an important factor in reducing the spread of infection. These basic hygiene practices must become second nature to everyone.”

Respiratory viruses are extremely common worldwide. Although the majority of patients experience mild symptoms, respiratory viruses cause illness and even death in certain groups or populations.

Viruses are easily transmitted, especially in areas where there are large numbers of people in close proximity, such as on public transport, school or busy shopping centres. In an age where global travel is becoming easier and more accessible, air travel can significantly accelerate the pandemic spread of infections such as influenza. Reducing the spread of droplets carrying the virus by covering the mouth and nose is an effective preventative measure.

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