Fighting Cold and Flu Germs
Reported December 2005
CHAPEL HILL (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Cold and flu season is fast approaching and before you start sniffling and sneezing, you should know the number one way scientists say to fight germs before they become a full-blown cold.
Mom was right and now she's backed up by science! Microbiologists at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill tested 14 hand-hygiene agents. Everything from soap to alcohol rubs to plain old tap water was tested against hardy bacteria and viruses applied to the hands of 62 volunteers.
Emily Sickbert-Bennett, an epidemiologist at UNC School of Public Health, says, "Really the best thing was plain soap and water." Soap isn't designed to kill bacteria. It acts as a surfactant to lift dirt off of surfaces so it can be rinsed away just like when you use dish washing liquid to remove grease off of dishes.
"We really think it's probably due to the just the physical washing off of those germs," Bennett says. Researchers also discovered just 10 seconds of washing is enough to knock off more than 90 percent of the germs known as microbes. "We know that 10 seconds is effective, and we can focus more on compliance, rather than increasing the length of time you wash your hands."
David Weber, M.D., M.P.H., an infectious disease researcher at UNC School of Medicine says, "Because it's not only a droplet disease, meaning three feet, but it is also a contact and touching disease as well." For times you aren't in close contact with a sink, the study revealed alcohol rubs do almost as well, and for parents who have a tough time selling soap -- so did plain old tap water.
Hospitals and health care facilities are paying close attention to this study. That's because health care associated infections rank in the top five causes of death, with an estimated 90,000 deaths each year in the United States.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
For more information on Hand Washing Research:
Media Relations Manager
University of North Carolina Health Care System
For more information about microbiology:
American Society for Microbiology
1752 N Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-2904
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