The woman was well dressed and her haircut looked expensive. She used the airport bathroom, walked out of the stall and then sauntered out of the restroom. She didn’t stop to wash her hands.
According to a national survey, this woman is not alone. Researchers hiding in stalls monitored hand-washing behavior in public restrooms. Conclusion: Women are better at washing their hands than men - 74 percent compared with 64 percent - but many men and women fail to wash their hands, especially if they think no one’s watching.
Hepatitis A has been in the news lately with reports of food handlers coming down with the virus. Restaurant patrons stood in line for hours for immune globulin shots. Some restaurant managers have gone on the offensive, educating the public about the virus and the means to prevent its spread. Some are calling on all restaurant owners to immunize their workers. But high worker turnover in the restaurant industry makes it difficult and very expensive to rely on immunizations to stop the spread of hepatitis.
Fortunately, we can all help in one simple way. We can wash our hands thoroughly after using the restroom. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to stop the spread of illness. It’s a lesson mothers and fathers are supposed to teach from the earliest days: “Wipe your bottom. Then, wash your hands.”
Yet this lesson must not be being taught as often as we hope by today’s parents. Or maybe the lesson is forgotten as children become teens and young adults. Or maybe adults, like the well-coiffed woman in the airport bathroom, believe they are exempt from the rule. Who knows what’s really going on?
So, it’s not a bad idea for schools to reinforce the lesson. Dr. Kim Thorburn of the Spokane Regional Health District is hoping to work with school districts to encourage hand washing among children.
There is a way to wash hands that truly does help prevent the spread of Hepatitis A and other illnesses, such as flu. Although many people still do wash their hands, they might not be doing an adequate job, Thorburn said.
“Ideally, you use warm water, with a single-dispenser soap, because a soap bar can be contaminated, too. Wet to above the hands. Apply the soap and rub the hands together to get friction for a period of time. Rinse them off by running the water from the top of the hands down.”
She added that it’s important to dry your hands with a clean towel and then minimize touching surfaces in the bathroom, even if it means opening the restroom door with a paper towel.
Hand Washing 101. Hard to accept that we need this reminder lesson. But if people pay more attention to this simple ritual, illness can be avoided and dining out can remain a worry-free experience.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board
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