UN Health Agency: Cleaner Hands Will Reduce Major Disease
Spread, Including Pandemics
With 1.4 million people worldwide falling seriously ill at any
time due to health care-associated infections, the United Na-
tions World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it is
launching a major campaign to reduce hand-spread infections, in-
cluding major pandemic diseases such as the avian flu.
The hand hygiene guidelines will be launched by WHO in conjunc-
tion with ministers of health, senior officials and technical
experts, and are part of the agency's "Clean Care is Safer Care"
programme, a series of actions they are undertaking to reduce
health care-associated infections, known as nosocomial infec-
tions, such as the spread of disease from hand contact, blood
safety and injection, clinical practices, and water, sanitation
and waste management.
"[We] have developed low-cost strategies to fight this global
challenge," WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook said. "Implement-
ing these strategies is the best way to prevent health care-
associated infection and improve safety," he added.
Hand hygiene still remains the primary measure to reduce health
care-associated infections and the spread of antimicrobial re-
sistance, and is equally effective in small facilities as in
large hospital complexes, said the agency, noting that that dur-
ing a new influenza pandemic, "the huge number of patients seek-
ing care will pose a challenge to health services and greatly
increase the risk of spread."
And although "transmission by large droplets when people cough
or sneeze is considered the major route of influenza spread,
transmission via contaminated hands may be a contributing fac-
tor," the agency said.
The agency estimates that between 5 and 10 per cent of patients
admitted to hospitals in developed countries have contracted
their infections through health care-associated contamination, a
number which can jump to 25 per cent in developing countries.
According to studies conducted in three Organisation for Eco-
nomic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, between $7
billion and $8.5 billion dollars are lost each year by these
countries due to health care-associated infections.
The "Hand Hygiene in Health Care" guidelines were developed by
over 100 technical experts over a year's time, said the agency,
and will be tested in different health care settings over six
[From the Moderator: you can download a draft of the document
"Clean care is safer care" as Adobe PDF file (35 pp. 2.1 MB!)