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May 13th: When it comes to Hand Hygiene, What’s Really Important?

When it comes to researching hand hygiene, the major focus is always on measuring reduction in infections rates, but surely, before doing this costly exercise, we should be doing more to ensure that the hand hygiene procedure we are recommendaing is as effective as possible in reducing microbial numbers o hands - whether it be handwashing or handrubs.  So its good to see a new study which is just published comparing CDC’s three-step hand hygiene process using hand rubs with the WHO’s six-step process seems to have obtained wide media attention. The study found that the lengthier 6 steps recommended by the WHO, taking 42.5 seconds, resulted in a higher reduction of bacterial count on hands compared to the CDC process taking approximately 35 seconds. The study highlights the key issue that in terms of what is truly important to keep patients and healthcare professionals safe from infection is how we hygienically clean our hands and when we do it –  which is in order to break the chain of infection transmission.

APIC will be launching a number of new resources for International Infection Prevention Week, October 16-22, around the theme of how to “Break the Chain of Infection.” And as we know, performing hand hygiene at the appropriate times is the number one way to break that chain of infection.

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The study can be found at: Jacqui S. Reilly, Lesley Price, Sue Lang, Chris Robertson, Francine Cheater, Kirsty Skinner, Angela Chow. A Pragmatic Randomized Controlled Trial of 6-Step vs 3-Step Hand Hygiene Technique in Acute Hospital Care in the United KingdomInfection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, 2016; 1 DOI: 10.1017/ice.2016.51