How Clean is That Hand You Are Shaking? The Spread of Germs
We routinely shake the hands of people we know and those we are meeting for the first time. But if you take a closer look at the science behind this gesture, things might not seem quite so pleasant. The human body contains many different types of bacteria. Some are good and we rely on the good ones to help keep us healthy. Others are not so good and can actually make us sick.
It has been estimated that we will shake hands on average 15,000 times in our lifetime. That adds up to a lot of opportunities for spreading bacteria, some of which can make us ill. That includes fecal bacteria, which is more common on hands than you probably care to know. The risk of spreading harmful bacteria increases exponentially when we don’t wash our hands on a regular basis and why good hand hygiene is so important.
Clean Hands Reduce the Spread of Dangerous Pathogens
Public health researchers have long known that clean hands can literally save lives by reducing the spread of dangerous pathogens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand-washing can reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea and respiratory illnesses by up to 50 percent.
Any cuts or scrapes found on your hands can welcome many types of bad bacteria. Fingernails are another issue, that, if not cleaned regularly, can become a prime spot for infections and bacteria to hide. Skin infections start when bacteria gets into a cut or scrape. Bacteria live on everyone’s skin and usually cause no harm. But when staphylococcus bacteria get into your body through a break in the skin, they can cause a “staph” infection. Staph infections may spread to other people by skin-to-skin contact, especially from hands.
Cleaning Your Hands with Soap and Water
Using soap and water is universally recognized as the best method for reducing the presence of bacteria that gather on our hands as we interact with the world around us. Keep in mind however that using only soap and water does not sterilize your hands. When we wash our hands with soap and water we are only ‘reducing’ the number of bacteria present to safe levels and remove stains, greases, and odors. And even if you do wash, you may be doing a slipshod job.
Hand-washing gurus say you need to devote 20 seconds to the task. One survey found that only 5 percent of subjects washed for 15 seconds or more. Then there are the details to master: Wet hands first, then add soap because you’ll get a better lather that way.
Many studies even show similar levels of bacterial reduction when comparing washing with soap and water with just water on its own. An even lesser-known fact is that soap might leave your hands even dirtier than before you washed.
Top-up or Bulk-fill Soap Dispensers
Studies conducted in the U.S., Japan, and the UK have revealed that up to 1 in 4 “top-up” or “bulk-fill” soap dispensers contain excessive levels of bacteria not suitable for the cleaning of hands. The problem is recognized as a health risk by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within healthcare settings. “Top-up” and “Bulk-fill” dispensers are those that have a bottle or container that is refilled with soap as it runs low.
This is most commonly seen in commercial facilities and transportation hubs due to their aesthetically pleasing appearance and ease of dispensing which allows these facilities to drive down costs.
Bacteria are introduced to these products both during the refilling process and during use, as contaminated air is drawn into the container to replace the soap that is dispensed.
Because the containers are warm and wet, they become ideal breeding grounds for certain microorganisms, which over time form large enough colonies to become unhealthy.
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That being said, we’re not all going to become sick from washing our hands, and not all soap dispensers in the workplace or in public places harbor dangerous bacteria. Don’t stop using soap when washing your hands as it is recognized as the most effective way to avoid sickness. To avoid possible exposure to harmful bacteria in the workplace, good hand hygiene practices should be encouraged along with regular sterilization of soap dispensers in workplace restrooms.
Keeping Commonly Touched Areas Clean
On top of good hand hygiene, another vital part of keeping potential illness at bay is by routinely cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing commonly touched areas. Most germs are transferred from commonly used surfaces — tables, chairs, faucets, counters, etc. When hands are not properly washed, germs can spread from person to person and object to object.
Surfaces act as a route of transmission for bacteria and every time we touch a surface we are sharing bacteria unknowingly. By regularly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces you remove and kill germs which lowers the risk of spreading illness and infection.
Commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs, phones, stair railings, desks, handles, faucets, keyboards, and so are hot spots for germs and bacteria. Many illnesses that are caused by viruses and the spread of bacteria, such as colds, the flu, and the stomach bug can live outside of the body and on indoor surfaces for long periods of time if not properly cleaned and sanitized.
The Difference Cleaning, Disinfecting, & Sanitizing
To help prevent the spread of germs and illness-causing bacteria, it’s important to know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing. Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects.
Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection. Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.
Keeping The Workplace Clean
It’s not always possible to avoid catching an illness, but there are ways to reduce your risk and to prevent infections spreading to others. First and foremost, wash your hands regularly, particularly after going to the toilet, before handling food and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. You also want to make sure that your workplace is kept clean and hygienic.
According to Kimberly-Clark Professional, germs can spread quickly through the workplace if people don’t adequately sanitize their hands and their work spaces. Commonly used spaces, such as break rooms, are often hot spots for germs to accumulate.
Break rooms have been found to have approximately 20,951 germs per square inch. Parts of the break room that tend to be touched the most, such as doorknobs, microwave oven handles, and sinks can be ripe with germs.
Businesses can help prevent their employees from getting sick by ensuring that their work environment is routinely cleaned by hiring a qualified, professional cleaning company.
Why You Should Hire Cleanstart
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Utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and the latest cleaning technologies, we will keep your workplace clean, safe, and hygienic. Our full-range of services are competitively priced and come with quick response times. Industries we service include but not limited to:
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Our professional cleaning technicians are properly trained for each industry we serve and we continuously supervise and audit all services we provide.
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