Proper Hand Hygiene – Infections Example

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"Proper Hand Hygiene" is an excellent example of a paper on infections. Washing hands is a practice for the very young and even the elderly. When growing up, we are sensitized to the importance of washing hands before and after certain activities. The rationale behind washing hands is to reduce the transmission of microbes from one person to the other and from surfaces to our bodies. Microbes are small living organisms that cause diseases such as diarrhea, flu, and stomachache. Washing of hands in itself is not sufficient, thus the Center for Disease Control (CDC) came up with a formula for proper handwashing.

The steps are as follows; Wet your hands using running warm or cold water. Lather your wet hands with soap, making sure the lather spreads to the back of your hands and in between the digits and under your fingernails. Then, scrub your hands by rubbing them together and making sure to cover even the back of the hands. The scrubbing should be done within a specific period, approximately 20 seconds. To ensure that the time has elapsed, one can sing a short tune or count up to 20. After scrubbing, rinse off the soap from the running water. Then use a clean, dry towel or air dry.

In a health setting, the use of air dryers is preferred to the use of towels to reduce germ transmission. Statistical data Measuring adherence to handwashing among health workers is challenging as many health facilities do not comply (WHO, 2009). However, it is estimated that approximately 50% of health workers do not practice proper hygiene. Globally, approximately 5% of people are the ones who practice proper handwashing (WHO, 2009).

People fall ill approximately four to six times a year due to various infections from poor hand hygiene. This translates to approximately 3 to four days of missed work whenever an individual falls ill. In cases of hospitalization, an individual can miss up to several weeks and even months of workdays (WHO, 2009). Common Microbes in unwashed hands The rationale for proper handwashing is to eliminate some common bacteria that cause diseases. Bacteria found on our hands can be categorized into resident and transient bacteria. Resident bacteria are microbes that are found in superficial cells and on the surface of the skin.

They include coagulase-negative staphylococci (such as S. epidermidis and S. hominins), coryneform bacteria (propionibacteria, corynebacteria, term bacteria, and micrococci) (WHO, 2009). Transient bacteria are found in the superficial layers of the skin. During proper hand hygiene, it is transient bacteria that are removed rather than resident bacteria. Examples of transient flora include staphylococcus aureus, gram-negative bacilli (WHO, 2009). Other microbes that are found in the hands of healthcare providers who do not practice proper hand hygiene include yeast and some fungi such a pityrosporum species.

Unlike the transient bacteria, resident bacteria are not associated with infections, but rather they attack sterile body cavities or broken skin (WHO, 2009). Spreading of Bacteria Microbes are transferred to patients through physical contact. Health workers who do not wear protective gear transfer germs from one patient to the other. Physical contact between patients also facilitates the spreading of germs. Patients also share hospital robes, bedding, and even washrooms. If proper hygiene is not observed, there is an increased risk of spreading the germs from patient to patient.

Microbes can also be spread through the exchange of body fluids. This can happen when an individual sneezes or coughs in a room with people. The microbes are transferred from that patient to others through inhalation of the same air that has not been circulated.   Examples of microbes transferred through coughing and sneezing include; Influenza virus which causes flu or fever Bordetella parapertussis which cause whooping cough Mycobacterium responsible for the spread of tuberculosis in humans The coronavirus that causes a severe acute respiratory syndrome The respiratory syncytial virus is responsible for a number of respiratory infections including the common cold. To stop the spread of microbes through coughing and sneezing, one should always have a handkerchief.

When coughing or sneezing, the person is required to place the handkerchief over their mouth and nose. This will reduce the transpiration of the microbes into the air and hence reduce the transmission risk (WHO, 2009). Consequences of improper hand hygiene According to the CDC lack of proper hand hygiene results in infection arising from germ contamination. When the microbes are ingested, health effects experienced include diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, and even vomiting.

Physical contact among people with poor hand hygiene habits can lead to transmission of diseases such as lung infections, heart valve infections, blood poisoning, food poisoning (salmonella and campylobacter), flu, and impetigo (WHO, 2009). These diseases may result in lengthy hospitalization of the patient and may even be fatal.


World Health Organization (W.H.O). (2009). Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care: A Summary of Patient Safety.
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