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Why Hand Washing is so Important

Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.


· Human and animal waste are serious sources of germs like Salmonella, E. coli O157, and norovirus that cause diarrhea, and they can spread some respiratory infections like adenovirus and hand-foot-mouth disease. These kinds of germs can get onto our hands after using the restroom or changing a diaper—even after handling raw meat which may be contaminated with animal waste. A single gram of human waste—which is about the weight of a paper clip—can contain one trillion germs!

· Germs can also get on the hands if people touch any object that has germs because someone coughed or sneezed on it or was touched by some other contaminated object. When these germs get onto hands and are not washed off, they can be passed from person to person and make people sick.

· People frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realizing it. Germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth and make us sick.

· Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them. Germs can multiply in some types of foods or drinks, under certain conditions, and make people sick.

· Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to other objects, like handrails, table tops, or toys, and then transferred to another person’s hands.

· Removing germs through handwashing therefore helps prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections and may even help prevent skin and eye infections.

· Teaching people about handwashing helps them and their communities stay healthy.


Proper hand washing:

· Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23-40%.

· Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%. 

· Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21%.

· Reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57%.

Not washing hands harms children around the world. About 1.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, the top two killers of young children globally.

Please be vigilant about hand washing, and encourage others to do the same!


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