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For Release: December 1, 2011 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – 405/271-5601

Your Good Health is in Your Clean Hands! 
National Handwashing Awareness Week is Dec. 4 - 10, 2011

Good hand cleaning, also called hand hygiene, is the first protection against illness in yourself and your family, according to public health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).  Even when your hands look clean, they may carry germs that can enter your body when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, or any broken skin.  Germs found on your hands can cause many illnesses such as common colds, influenza (flu), diarrhea, skin infections such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) as well as more serious illnesses such as meningitis, bronchitis, and hepatitis A.

Germs multiply quickly on your skin and hands, so cleaning your hands well and often is important.  Use one of these methods to remove germs from your hands:

  • Wash hands with soap and water when hands are visibly soiled. First, wet your hands with warm water, then use liquid or clean bar soap to work up a lather.  Rub your hands together vigorously for at least 15 to 20 seconds to remove the “dirt”.  Remember to scrub your nail areas, thumbs, wrists and back of hands because these areas are often forgotten.  Finish by rinsing your hands well, then drying with a clean towel.  In public areas, protect your clean hands by using the paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door.
  • When your hands look clean, germs can still be present.  In these cases, you can disinfect your hands using an alcohol-based hand product such as a gel or foam.  Check the label to be sure the product contains between 60 and 95 percent alcohol.  Alcohol-based hand products only work on hands that appear to be clean because they cannot physically remove “dirt”.  Use enough of the product to thoroughly moisten your hands, and then rub it in until your hands are dry. 

The OSDH wishes to remind everyone to wash your hands, especially:

  • Whenever they are dirty
  • Before, during and after you prepare food
  • Before you eat
  • Before you touch your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Before you insert or remove contact lenses
  • Before and after using sports/fitness equipment
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After you blow your nose or cough or sneeze into your hands
  • After you use the bathroom or change a diaper
  • After handling uncooked foods, especially meat, poultry or fish
  • After handling animals or animal waste
  • After you handle garbage or dirty laundry
  • More often when someone in your home is sick

To prevent disease all year long, remember to wash your hands often and encourage your family members and coworkers to do the same.  For additional information regarding hand hygiene and prevention of diseases, please visit the OSDH web site at www.health.ok.gov.

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