Washing hands simplest way to avoid infections

Sickness due to infections affects some 1.4 million people worldwide despite one of the most powerful approaches to fighting the scourge also being the simplest that is cleaning hands every time a doctor or nurse sees a patient.

“We can reduce these numbers dramatically, and more and more countries are showing they are ready to take action,” UN World Health Organisation (WHO) Acting Director-General Anders Nordstrom has said.

“With the help of WHO and other partners these countries are laying the foundations for patients everywhere to receive cleaner, safer care.”

Twenty-two countries representing 55 per cent of the world’s population have signed on to the Global Patient Safety Challenge ‘Clean Care is Safer Care’, since it was launched by the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety in October 2005.

In developed countries, 5 to 10 per cent of all patients fall ill to infections acquired in hospitals, while in some developing countries as many as a quarter of patients may be affected.

Many countries, WHO says, have already substantially improved hand hygiene practices among health professionals.

During a recent four-month hand hygiene campaign in Switzerland, for example, compliance with good practices increased 25 per cent among doctors and nurses working in two cantonal hospitals.

Based on the results of that study it has been estimated that the Swiss could avert 17,000 such infections each year if hospitals nationwide achieved comparable improvements.

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