Washing your hands before and after several tasks is a fundamental hygiene practice we’ve all learned as children, and yet we might often dismiss it as unnecessary. The results of a new study, which suggests that increasing the rate of handwashing can lead to a slower spread of epidemics, might convince us to be more diligent about this habit.
The paper makes some specific observations about the practice of washing hands and public health. It says that more people washing hands correctly at airports could stop or reduce the spread of several infectious diseases. It further found that focusing on improving handwashing rates at 10 chosen airports, based on outbreak location, could help bring down the disease spread.
“Seventy percent of the people who go to the toilet wash their hands afterward,” said Professor Christos Nicolaides, a fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “The other 30 percent don’t. And of those that do, only 50 percent do it right. Eliciting an increase in hand-hygiene is a challenge,” he says, “but new approaches in education, awareness, and social-media nudges have proven to be effective in hand-washing engagement.”
Furthermore, the study suggests that having handwashing facilities such as sinks or washbasins outside of restrooms would be much more effective as compared to having them within the restrooms. This is because restrooms are comparatively contaminated spaces.
Based on their previous research, the team estimates that only 20 percent of the people in an airport have clean hands, with the other 80 percent consequently spreading contamination. Proper handwashing involves doing it with soap and water for 15 seconds or more.
The research paper has been published in the Risk Analysis journal.