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Does it take an outbreak of a frightening, potentially fatal infectious disease, like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or a gastrointestinal illness on a cruise ship, to get people to follow Mom’s advice to “wash your hands after using the bathroom?” Apparently, it may.
Results of a new survey, conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide, show that many people still aren’t washing their hands in public places, exposing others to the risk of infection, despite recent outbreaks of infectious diseases.
Although illnesses as deadly as SARS and as troublesome as the common cold or gastric distress can be spread hand-to-hand, the survey sponsored by the American Society of Microbiology (ASM), found that many people passing through major U.S. airports don’t wash their hands after using public facilities. More than 30 percent of people using restrooms in New York airports, 19 percent of those in Miami’s airport, and 27 percent of air travelers in Chicago aren’t stopping to wash their hands. The survey, conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide in August 2003, observed 7,541 people in public washrooms in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Miami and Toronto.
U.S. airport observations contrast sharply with an August 2003 Wirthlin telephone survey of 1,000 Americans, in which 95 percent said that they wash their hands in public restrooms. The same phone survey – which found only 58 percent of people say they wash their hands after sneezing or coughing and only 77 percent say they wash their hands after changing a diaper – highlights the seriousness of the problem.
Take Action: Clean Hands Campaign is a key component of the ASM’s ongoing efforts designed to spread the importance of hand washing’ message. The campaign consists of educational materials designed for healthcare professionals and consumers .