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AFRICAN HEALTH DIALOGUES: WHY IS HAND WASHING IMPORTANT?

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Unwashed or poorly washed hands are a very common way of spreading many diseases. Such common diseases are colds, flu, eaafricanr infections, strep throat, intestinal problems, and other diarrheal illnesses (salmonellosis, hepatitis A, shigellosis) can be passed from person to person when someone doesn’t wash his hands after using the bathroom and then passes it along to someone else by handling food, shaking hands, or touching something. Today, hand washing is the simplest and most available "low-tech" prevention of illnesses. This noteworthy achievement is one of the most important proves that behavioral changes are the best prevention to all infections and illnesses.

In developed countries, hand washing is heavily promoted for people of all ages and walks of life, but few people know the history of its beginnings. Prior to the discovery of microbial pathogens, even in Western civilization, many people believed that diseases resulted from evil spirits. Most doctors didn't understand the need to wash their hands to prevent infections. During the American Civil War, for every man killed in battle, two died of illness or disease. Often the injured died from infections, rather than from the wound itself.

Three individuals, Ignaz Semmelweis, John Snow and Thomas Crapper, are attributed for initiating our daily lifestyle practices of hand washing, drinking clean water and toilet flushing that clearly attributed to these giant leaps in humankind, most of which we take for granted. To support a global and local culture of hand washing with soap and to raise awareness about the benefits of hand washing with soap, people around the world have been celebrating the Global hand washing Day on October 15th.

 

HOST: Dr. Ladi Owolabi         HOST: Dr. Susanna J Dodgson

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