Global Handwashing Day: Relevance In The Pandemic Times

October 15, 2020 2:22 PM

On Global Handwashing Day, it is our collective responsibility to ensure strict adherence of these hand-hygiene protocols and spreading awareness of the same!

In many parts of India, hand hygiene was not given adequate attention.

By Vikas Bagaria

Infections or communicable diseases are one of the biggest causes of fatalities globally—issues that are preventable with adequate attention to a basic practice called hand hygiene. Majority of the disease carrying pathogens spread through our hands, and that’s why keeping them sanitized and devoid of bacteria and virus can be the most effective measure against infections.

To advocate hand hygiene and make people understand the impact of this practice, October 15 is commemorated as the Global Handwashing Day. The idea is to promote the importance of using soap as an economical and effective disease prevention method. While the message of hand-hygiene is crucial at all times, this year, the need is even more pronounced by the global outbreak of the COVID-19 or Coronavirus pandemic. The disease has come as a jolt, a harsh reminder of how it is time to make handwashing with soaps a key priority of our daily routines. It is also an essential step in ensuring universal hygiene and preventing any future pandemic outbreaks.

In many parts of India, hand hygiene was not given adequate attention. A study had found that almost 50% of the respondents didn’t wash hands before cooking food, and 70% of them didn’t wash hands before serving the food. What is even more shocking is that more than 87% people of those with a child under 5 years of age in the family, didn’t wash their hands before feeding. While this might explain the high rate of infant fatalities in India, it also brings to the fore the need to reverse the trend urgently.

These are statistics from the pre-pandemic times, but the need for hand-hygiene has tremendously increased since the outbreak. Respiratory infections such as COVID-19 spread through droplets exhaled during the process of breathing. These contain the disease carrying virus and usually accumulate on the surface of our hands. Only washing your hands thoroughly with soap can help eliminate those germs, in the absence of which you will also end up transferring the microbes to others. Majority of those infected with COVID-19 remain asymptomatic, and while they don’t suffer any illness themselves, they inadvertently act as carriers of the pathogens.

According to the hand-hygiene best practices issued by World Health Organization and various other health bodies, we must wash our hands using a soap and water for about 20-30 seconds thoroughly. It is important to wash them before eating food, touching any surface in a public place, or the face, and before and after visiting any public place or using public transportation.

These measures have become highly relevant today as the only effective prevention against the virus until a clinically proven vaccine becomes commonly available. By following hand-hygiene practices, we can not only protect ourselves and those around us from the pandemic, but also greatly reduce health risks such as diarrhoea. Frequent handwashing is also known to reduce a person’s dependence on antibiotics and make us safer from the drug-resistant microbes.

Apart from the soap and water, in areas where water availability is low or during travel, one can also use alcohol based hand-sanitizers which have over 60% alcohol content to rub the hands clean of disease carrying pathogens. On Global Handwashing Day, it is our collective responsibility to ensure strict adherence of these hand-hygiene protocols and spreading awareness of the same! Let’s be high on hygiene!!

(The author is Founder, Pee Safe. Views expressed are personal.)

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