Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have launched the “Clean Hands Count” campaign, which reminds healthcare professionals, patients, and patients’ loved ones to prevent healthcare-associated infections by keeping their hands clean.

Although hand contact is known to be a major way germs spread in medical facilities, studies show that some healthcare professionals don’t follow CDC hand hygiene recommendations.1 

“Patients depend on their medical team to help them get well, and the first step is making sure healthcare professionals aren’t exposing them to new infections,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD,  MPH said in a prepared statement. “Clean hands really do count and in some cases can be a matter of life and death.”

Part of the new campaign promotes healthcare provider adherence to CDC hand hygiene recommendations by addressing some of the myths and misperceptions about hand hygiene. For example, some people wrongly believe that using alcohol-based hand sanitizer contributes to antibiotic resistance and that it is more damaging to hands than washing with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer kills germs quickly and in a different way than antibiotics, so it does not cause antibiotic resistance, and it causes less skin irritation than frequent use of soap and water.


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The initiative also encourages patients and their loved ones to ask their healthcare team to clean their hands if they don’t see them do so before providing care.

“We know that patients can feel hesitant to speak up, but they are important members of the health care team and should expect clean hands from providers,” Arjun Srinivasan, MD, CDC’s associate director for healthcare-associated infection prevention programs said in the statement. “We know that healthcare providers want the best for their patients, so we want to remind them that the simple step of cleaning their hands protects their patients.”

An estimated 722,000 healthcare-associated infections occur each year in US hospitals, and about 75,000 patients with these infections die during their hospital stays. Healthcare providers should follow good hand hygiene practices, such as cleaning their hands before and after every patient contact. 

Reference

1. Thompson D, Bowdey L, Brett M, Creek J. Using medical student observers of infection prevention hand hygiene, and injection safety in outpatient settings: A cross-sectional survey. Am J Infect Control. 2016; doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2015.11.029.