Wet, Soap, Wash, Rinse, Dry

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Norovirus is actually a pretty big hipster and only takes grainy black and white photos of itself like this. Image by Shureg.

Washing hands should be simple, but apparently people in the UK have an issue with this “simple” idea. Having read an article online on the BBC website I was mortified to find out that faecal bacteria (yes, faeces), is present on the hands of 26% of the UK. That’s more than a quarter of the people in our country… pretty shocking, don’t you agree? This article really got me thinking of all those communal things that we touch every single day: so many door handles, money and all those library computers that have been touched and typed on by hundreds of people before us, so there is definitely some of that dreaded bacteria around our campus.

It seems that although we live in a clean country with modern facilities, our population is assuming that they don’t carry any diseases. In fact, by not washing your hands you can pass around the flu, MRSE and diarrhoea, infections and diseases that no-one wants to experience. By washing your hands more frequently, you can reduce the number of these bacteria and diseases and stop them spreading around.

Although the NHS has run campaigns trying to encourage people to wash their hands, many people lie about it. In a recent UK-wide study, 99% of people interviewed at motorway service stations toilets claimed they had washed their hands after going to the toilet. Electronic recording devices revealed only 32% of men and 64% of women actually did.

Unfortunately, germs are getting everywhere, and it’s not just all over our hands, it’s on things and in places that we don’t really consider. Kitchen sinks, washing machines, chopping boards and even handbags. Yes, girls, handbags have up to 10,000 bacteria in each square inch! Thinking about the state of my kitchen in my second year, there was no doubt thousands of germs lurking on pots and pans in the kitchen – no wonder we all get freshers’ flu!

So, what’s to be done? The answer is pretty simple. Washing your hands regularly, before handling food, after using the toilet and after coughing and sneezing. Carrying anti-bacterial hand-gel to use in-between these times can reduce the number of germs on your hands as well. Ensure chopping boards and sinks are kept clean and try to avoid things getting mouldy in the kitchen!

Another tactic which has worked in parts of the UK is the idea of shaming people into washing their hands, especially after the toilet. A study conducted showed that more people washed their hands when signs were put up asking: “Is the person next to you washing their hands?” This shows the power of embarrassment and social pressure, especially in the toilet. One sign spotted in some US toilets said ‘no poo poo fingers’ – a phrase which I (and I hope you do too) think we should all remember!

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