You Can Keep Ecoli Under Control with a Few Simple Steps - Wash Up

WashUp, But Don't Touch Those Taps Afterward: 

You Can't Get Rid of E.Coli, But YouCan Keep it Under Control with a Few Simple Steps

June5, 2001
Globe and Mail
Marissa Nelson

Hang out in a publicwashroom for any length of time and, according to this story,  you'll seethem; the non-hand-washers of the world. Then, the story says, there's the folkswho just sprinkle a few digits with water and quickly turn off the faucet. Thatworries public-health officials in Ontario's Durham region, east of Toronto,where an outbreak of a multidrug resistant form of E. coli at long-term carefacilities was largely spread by dirty hands, said Allison McGeer, aninfectious-disease expert at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Other cases havebeen reported in York region, north of Toronto, and Scarborough.

Thestory says that in general, bacteria don't thrive on inanimate objects such ashand rails and door handles but they can survive in such places for briefperiods of time. So, caretakers at the facilities are scrubbing down everysurface the residents touch twice a day. Going to the washroom is the closestyou'll get to the E. coli that lives in your bowel. Donna Reynolds, associatemedical officer of health for Durham region, was quoted as saying, "E. coliis a part of our normal bowel. We can't eliminate it." The says that somestudies show that up to 25 per cent of people leave the washroom with bacteriafrom feces on their hands. Having it on your hands makes the trip to your face arelatively easy one, where it can enter your mouth and infect the body.

Thepublic isn't alone in their dirty-hand problems. In fact, John Conly, aninfectious-disease consultant who helped develop Health Canada's hand-washingguidelines, was cited as saying that between 20 and 30 per cent of physicians inone study didn't wash their hands enough, adding, "It's such a simplething. If people washed their hands properly we likely would not have thesuperbug problems we have today, as far as transmission is concerned."

Dr.Reynolds was cited as saying that a recent study showed that people who do washtheir hands are less apt to get illnesses throughout the year.

Theproblem in the Toronto-area outbreak wasn't that nurses and caretakers weren'twashing their hands, rather that they weren't washing them properly. And poorhand-washing isn't easy to spot.

Thestory says that at a press conference discussing the outbreak in Durham region,Dr. Reynolds demonstrated how easy it is to wash your hands incorrectly. Miminghow you turn on a tap, scrub and then turn the tap off with bare hands, Dr.Reynolds said it was key for people to use paper towel to turn the taps off, toavoid reinfecting your hands.

Theexperts generally agree on washing technique: rub your hands, including youroft-forgotten thumbs, under warm water with soap for 15 seconds -- about thelength it takes to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Dry with paper towel, anduse the towel to turn off the taps. You're stuck if the washroom doesn't havepaper towel. Most infectious disease experts prefer taps with a laser eye thatturns the tap on and off automatically because that prevents reinfection. Theyalso prefer liquid soap because bar soap can breed bacteria in the little poolof water on the basin.

"Thereare a lot of viruses, bacteria and parasites that can spread on yourhands," Dr. Reynolds said. "People shouldn't be obsessive. However, itis the most effective measure for infection control, and probably the leastrecognized."

NOTE: If you would like information on training sprout production personnelon proper hand washing techniques, or tools that can help you determine if theyare properly washing their hands, please call your ISS salesperson.