A few drops of water.  A dab of soap.   Rinse, shake well.  Viola!  Clean hands!  Wrong!

You see the signs in the bathroom- Employees must wash hands before returning to work.  You see the nurse spritz a little sanitizer on their hands.  You yourself wash hands religiously.  Right?  Sure you do.  The problem is, hardly anyone, except maybe a surgical team going into the operating room, washes their hands thoroughly enough to control a lot of the bad things out there waiting to infect us.  Too much trouble.  Takes too long.  I took a bath yesterday.

Much better to spend a little time cleaning, hands and surfaces, than to be stricken with some horrific infection.  Look at this year’s Norovirus, otherwise known as stomach flu, Norwalk virus or best yet, Winter vomiting disease.  You really don’t want this, but it will strike 70, 000 people hard enough to send them to the hospital.  And 800 will die.  So a little more soap and water is good.

Actually, you need  a lot more soap and water,.  And maybe more than just soap and water.  Proper hand washing calls for a full thirty seconds of vigorous scrubbing using hot water and soap, and getting under your nails.  Drying your hand with a paper towel adds to the cleaning effect as it removes the liquids in which the loosened germs are now suspended.  Air drying is not sufficient as this removes the liquid, but the germs can remain.

“It is pretty difficult to get rid of,” says Allison Aiello, who studies how viruses spread at the University of Michigan. “It is pretty stable. It lives quite some time on surfaces. It is hard to kill.”  Some recent studies show that a quick application of hand sanitizer won’t get rid of it.  And it gets everywhere, not just your hands.  In a healthcare facility it will surely get into the laundry.  This bad boy spreads fecally you realize, that is, in what is sometimes referred to as “poop.”  In order to kill it in the laundry, they must use hot water and bleach.  In the dining facility, dishes need to be machine washed in order to get hot enough water to kill the bugs.  Washing dishes by hand just won’t do.  And when cleaning surfaces, especially in patient care areas,  regular cleaner won’t get the virus.   The Center for Disease Control recommends using bleach, including chlorine bleach or hydrogen peroxide.

Washing hands is a good start.  More intense measures may be needed depending on the circumstances.  But the overarching rule in cleaning is: Be Thorough!

Information for this posting was taken form a story written by Maggie Fox, Senior Writer at NBC News, titled “Norovirus: Why Washing Your Hands Isn’t Enough.”