News Release

November 28, 2005

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Hand Washing - the Gold Standard

Stopping the Spread of Colds and Flu

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Flu and cold season is here and hand washing still remains the best defense against infection, says John Shanley, M.D., director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UConn Health Center. “Washing your hands with soap and water for just 10 to 15 seconds will remove bacteria. Not only will regular hand washing help stop the spread of colds and flu, it will also help stop the spread of food poisoning and gastrointestinal-related illnesses,” he said.

According to a 2001 report by the American Society for Microbiology, overall only 67 percent of Americans wash with soap and water after using public toilets. Bacteria can be passed from person to person and through contact with objects that are passed or touched by others. Hand washing for just 10 to 15 seconds will do the trick, said Dr. Shanley. A mental chorus of “Happy Birthday,” or a couple of rounds of “Row, Row Your Boat,” is all the time it takes.

“There’s a lot of concern about the future and Avian flu, but people should focus on the current cold and flu season,” said Dr. Shanley. “Hand washing is still the best defense against a cold or virus, and it’s the best way to avoid spreading germs – of all sorts.”

Here are a few tips to keep you cold-and flu-free this winter:

  • Soap and water is all you need to clean your hands. Antibacterial soaps are no better. Wash (remember the 15 seconds rule) and dry hands thoroughly.
  • Always wash your hands before preparing meals and before eating, and always after using any toilet. Use common sense in your daily activities to maintain good hygiene.
  • In public restrooms, after washing your hands, use a paper towel to open the door – 33 percent of people don’t wash their hands after using a toilet.
  • Carry hand sanitizer or hand-wipes with you and use them when soap and water is not available.

“The more people around you, the more likely you are to be exposed to colds and flu. Get a flu shot; keep your hands away from your face, and above all, wash your hands,” said Dr. Shanley.

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