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Maintaining hand hygiene 16 times cheaper than treating infectious diseases – NCDC

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says maintaining hand hygiene is 16 times cheaper than the cost of treating an infectious disease.

Global Handwashing Day
Pupils during the Global Handwashing Day celebrations

Dr Abiodun Egwuenu, the Programme Manager, Antimicrobial Resistance Programme at the centre, made this known on Thursday, May 5, 2022, in Abuja at the commemoration of the 2022 World Hand Hygiene Day (WHHD) by Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Jabi in Abuja.

The World Hand Hygiene Day (WHHD) is an international observance day commemorated every year on May 5 to recognise global efforts to prevent the spread of infections through frequent hand washing with soap and water.

This year’s celebration has “Health Care Quality and Safety Climate or Culture that Values Hygiene and Infection Prevention and Control (IPC)” as its theme and “Unite for Safety: Clean Your Hands” as slogan.

Egwuenu said that hand hygiene was very important because 50 per cent of infections, especially at the hospitals, often referred to as hospital or healthcare acquired infections, were avoidable.

According to her, when hand hygiene is in place in the community and even at the hospital, there is reduction in cost by the patient and reduction in transmission of infections, especially for antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial Resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and fail to respond to medications, she said.

She added that “you reduce transmission of resistance infections because some of these germs become resistant to the normal drugs that usually treat them.

“When this happens, the person stays most in the hospital, spends more on care and they might even die. So, hand hygiene is very central to preventing infection.

“The cost of care reduces by 16 times, so if you implement that in hospitals what you save is 16 times over, so, hand hygiene as small as it might seem, can save a lot of lives and save a lot of money.”

The Medical Director, FMC Jabi, Prof. Saad Ahmed, said there was need to continually emphasise the importance of hand hygiene.

Ahmed, who was represented by Dr Joseph Eziechila, the Head, Clinical Services at the hospital, in an analogy using Viral Conjunctivitis, popularly referred to as “Apollo”, said that it could be prevented by washing of hands.

He said that although the restrictions on COVID-19 had been relaxed, staff of the hospital were charged to continue the culture of washing their hands.

He noted that “by creating this awareness of marking the World Hand Hygiene Day, it is a form of recreating the awareness because when you continue repeating a thing it becomes a habit and once it is a habit it is difficult to go away.

“We are in contact with a lot of people because the hospital is a public place with micro-organisms flying around, but once you wash your hands, you would have reduced by 60 per cent the chances of getting one infection or the other.”

He, however, said that where there was no water, alcohol-based hand sanitisers should be used.

The Head of Department, Medical Microbiology, Dr Nkolika Uwaezuoke, said that the hands were the singular most important vehicle in the transmission and spread of microorganisms within the hospital environment.

Uwaezuoke said that ensuring clean hands was crucial to healthcare workers as they interact with patients daily.

“Hand hygiene is an important practice that is performed by healthcare workers to keep patients and everyone safe, including visitors to hospital.

“To achieve this, we need to work together to stop the spread of germs causing infections, thereby sustaining a culture of clean hands and reducing healthcare associated infections,” he said.

By Folasade Akpan

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