HAND WASHING A TRIBUTE TO IGNAZ PHILIP SEMMELWEIS
Ignaz Philip Semmelweis (1818-1867) championed the importance of hand washing among the medical
professionals GIVING birth was a dangerous endeavour in the 1800s; many women died soon after doing
so. Ignaz Semmelweis, an obstetrician working at the time at Vienna General Hospital observed that by
washing his hands with bleach before he touched his patients he could reduce their mortality rate by
90%. This was before Louis Pasteur established the germ theory of disease, and Semmelweis could not
explain the correlation. After he published his findings, though, many of his colleagues were offended at
the suggestion that they did not have clean hands. After all, doctors were gentlemen and as Charles
Meigs, another obstetrician, put it, “a gentleman’s hands are clean”. Discouraged, Semmelweis slipped
into depression and was eventually committed to a lunatic asylum. He died 14 days later, after being
brutally beaten by the guard. And washing for hand hygiene is the act of cleaning one's hands with or
without the use of water or another liquid, or with the use of soap, for the purpose of removing soil, dirt,
and/or microorganisms. Yet there is no other procedure which is simple and cost effective in preventing
the spread of infections in hospital environment. It is utmost important duty of every medical,
paramedical and nursing staff to educate, promote and monitor hand washing. In spite of more than a
century of knowledge many times, this simple procedure is ignored by the many senior staff, and young
professionals alike. The simple procedure of hand washing is the best prayer in prevention of infections in
a hospital, continues to be the best remedy in reducing the hospital acquired infections.Keeping hands
clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting
sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with
soap and clean, running water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs
on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.
Everybody should realise washing hands is the First Line of Defence Against many microbial infections
Microbes can be transmitted many ways, including touching dirty hands changing dirty diapers, through
contaminated water and food through droplets released during a cough or a sneeze via contaminated
surface through contact with a sick person's body fluids
How to wash your hands
It's generally best to wash your hands with soap and water. Follow these simple steps:
Wet your hands with running water.
Apply liquid, bar or powder soap.
Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs
of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer.
If possible, use your towel to turn off the faucet.
We are carried by the commercial interests of antibacterial soap,sKeep in mind that antibacterial soap is
no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the
development of bacteria that are resistant to the product's antimicrobial agents — making it harder to kill
these germs in the future.
HOW TO USE AN ALCOHOL-BASED HAND SANITIZER
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which don't require water, are an acceptable alternative when soap and
water aren't available. If you choose to use a hand sanitizer, make sure the product contains at least 60
percent alcohol. Then follow these simple steps:
Apply enough of the product to the palm of your hand to wet your hands completely.
Rub your hands together, covering all surfaces, until your hands are dry.
Antimicrobial wipes or towelettes are another effective option. Again, look for a product that contains a
high percentage of alcohol. If your hands are visibly dirty, wash with soap and water.
Hand-washing doesn't take much time or effort, but it offers great rewards in terms of preventing illness.
Adopting this simple habit can play a major role in protecting your health.
Bad hand hygiene continues to take tool even in developing countries Hygiene in hospitals has come a
long way since Semmelweiss time. But there is still room for improvement. Every year nearly 100,000
people die in America alone from preventable infections acquired in hospitals.
We have threat of drug resistant bacteria, if one develops multidrug resistant infection, the option
becomes less to treat Patients as long-term or complex medical care facilities and nursing homes are at
the greatest risk for carbapenem resistant bacteria infections, which is spread mainly by dirty hands.
Medical devices like ventilators and catheters increase the risk of infection because they allow the
bacteria to get deep into a patient’s body.
To fight antibiotic resistance, the CDC calls for better preventative measures like immunizations, safer
food preparation and more hand-washing; improved tracking of antibiotic-resistant infections; greater
development of new antibiotics and diagnostic tests; and more conservative use of antibiotics.
The recent studies prove dispensers we use to fill the liquid soap are contaminated, in a major
elementary school-based field study, researchers discovered that bacteria on the hands of students and
staff increased by nearly 26-fold after washing with soap from contaminated bulk-soap-refillable
dispensers.The bacteria found in contaminated dispensers were there in concentrations of about 1,000
times what the industry recommends. The germs remaining on the hands are easily transferred to other
surfaces, the company reminds people. So "Do not add soap to a partially empty soap dispenser," the
guidelines state. "This practice of 'topping off' dispensers can lead to bacterial contamination of
soap."(STUDY: Hand soap dispensers are too dirty)
When you are working in ICU and ICCU the patients are invariably on broad spectrum antibiotics and
colonized with multi drug resistant bacteria. Your dedicated effort in hand washing will save the lives of
serious patients, from infection.
In the era of AIDS and Hepatitis B infection all the blood and body secretions are identified as health risk
to all medical/paramedical staff. Hand washing is included as primary importance in the universal
Wearing a glove is not a total protection in handling infectious cases. Even the new gloves contain micro
holes. Washing is equally important after you remove gloves.
Your children can be effectively protected from infection if you teach simple hand washing, even in
school after attending a toilet or before taking food. It is observed that in schools with good washing
facilities the children are less likely to be sick with infection from communicable diseases.
Our goals in hand washing promotion Experience has shown that most effective way to increase hand
washing is to have physicians, surgeons, senior paramedical staff and other respected individuals as role
models to consistently wash their hands and encourage others to do so.
Social hand washing is also an important procedure to be explained to all the patient attendants. As even
attendants get infected while serving and may take home the infection or bring some infections from
outside when they attend the patients.
In spite of several Medical advances and new generation of Antibiotics Hand hygiene continues to be
simple, effective and economical solution to prevent infections in Hospitals and Community.
Dr.T.V.Rao MD. Professor of Microbiology – Freelance writer