In marking World Hand Hygiene Day, the World Health Organization is stressing the importance of good hand hygiene practices in stopping the spread of deadly infections. It says this is especially true at a time when the world is battling the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease.
COVID has dramatically amplified the importance of hand washing. The head of WHO’s infection prevention and control, Benedetta Allegranzi, says this simple action can prevent the risk of transmitting the infection, when used as part of a comprehensive package of public health measures.
“Effective hand hygiene also prevents any infection acquired in health care, the spread of antimicrobial resistance and other emerging health threats. Hand hygiene is a simple action that has a central role in contributing to quality care and to the whole of society efforts to prevent infection spread and saves lives,” Allegranzi said.
A WHO survey of 88 countries finds low-and-middle-income countries have made significantly lower progress than high-income countries in implementing hand hygiene and infection prevention programs.
The report notes one in four health care facilities in poorer countries does not have basic water services and one in three lacks hand hygiene supplies.
Allegranzi said the poorer countries lack the money needed to shore up their crumbling health care infrastructure. Consequently, she noted, most do not meet the minimal requirements to make a significant dent in reducing often life-threatening infections.
“For example, in some low-and-middle-income countries, only one in 10 have workers who practice proper hand hygiene while caring for patients at high-risk of health care susceptibility infection in intensive care units.  While, also in high-income countries, hand hygiene compliance rarely exceeds 60% to 70%.”
WHO reports every year, health care-acquired infections affect millions of patients and health workers globally. Europe alone, it says, records nearly nine million infections yearly. The U.N. agency says highly effective and low-cost hand hygiene strategies are available that could reduce these infections by half.

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