Such a simple and ordinary act has become one of the greatest weapons against the pandemic that is plaguing the world. The practice of washing hands has gained notoriety in the fight against covid-19 as a fundamental attitude for hygiene and combating the transmission of the virus.
But the importance of hand washing comes from before the start of the pandemic and is related to several other diseases. For this reason, on October 15th, World Hand Wash Day is celebrated. The date aims to draw attention to this everyday attitude in its contribution to avoid contamination and infection of people. This year the theme is “Hygiene in the hands for everyone”.
In efforts against the new coronavirus pandemic, the practice was the subject of regulations and promotional campaigns. The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a campaign with the theme “Save lives: wash your hands”. The entity released a “challenge” on social networks inviting individuals to publish videos showing situations in which they are washing their hands.
The WHO has images on its website that indicate the proper ways to wash hands (https://www.who.int/gpsc/clean_hands_protection/en/). The soap should be applied to the palms. It is recommended to rub your hands in between your fingers. Another important movement is not to forget to use your closed palm to clean your thumbs.
A study of the health products brand Tork found that 75% of respondents are washing their hands more after the pandemic begins. But, among those consulted, 77% reported performing the procedure to protect themselves and not out of a concern to avoid health problems for other people as well.
Of the people who participated in the study, 78% said they wash their hands after returning from a public place, but only 38% said they did this before leaving home for a place where people circulate.
According to the organizers of the World Day, the practice can reduce diarrhea-related illnesses by between 30% and 40% and respiratory infections by up to 20%. In addition, it helps to combat the transmission of diseases such as cholera and hepatitis E.
However, there are still 40% of the population without access to infrastructure to wash their hands. While in the richest countries this index comes close to universalization, in the poorest it is 28%. And, among those who do, in 47% of cases the structure is fixed.
Ministry of Health installs sink at the entrance of the building to encourage people to clean their hands – Fabio Rodrigues-Pozzebom / Agência Brasil
As in the WHO guidelines, Brazilian health authorities have also adopted hand washing as a fundamental strategy against covid-19. The Ministry of Health recommends the practice as a way to prevent transmission of the new coronavirus. In the guidelines, both washing with soap and water and cleaning with 70% gel alcohol are permitted.
In the Epidemiological Surveillance Guide: Public Health Emergency of National Importance due to Coronavirus Disease 2019, published by the ministry in August this year, it is stated that hand hygiene is the “most effective measure in reducing the spread of respiratory transmission diseases”.
“Current evidence indicates that the virus that causes covid-19 is transmitted via respiratory droplets or by contact. Contact transmission occurs when contaminated hands touch the lining of the mouth, nose or eyes. The virus can also be transferred from one surface to another using contaminated hands, which facilitates transmission by indirect contact, ”explains the document.
In the Ministry of Health protocol for resuming classes, hand hygiene is indicated as one of the individual protective measures recommended to students and education professionals. The procedure must cover up to the height of the wrists and the sanitizing substance can be water and soap or 70% gel alcohol.
In their protocols, state governments also place hygiene as a necessary care. In those activities that remained open or that were resumed after some time, hand washing or cleaning with 70% gel alcohol are listed as an obligation for public agencies, businesses and spaces with circulation of people.