Prioritise handwashing and save lives

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) annual campaign, SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands, could not be more relevant than it is to South Africans following the recent Listeria outbreak which claimed over 180 lives since December 2017.

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‘In honour of World Hand Hygiene Day on Saturday, 5 May 2018, this campaign encourages healthcare workers to wash their hands at the right times. Such education on hygiene practices can go a long way towards combatting unnecessary infection, disease and fatalities across the world. Likewise, it is essential for South Africa’s government and private industry – such as the food industry – to prioritise and educate its people and workforce on how to protect themselves and others from foodborne illnesses and bacterial exposure.’

This is according to Gareth-Lloyd Jones, chief commercial officer of Ecowize – South Africa’s leading specialised hygiene and sanitation service provider for the food, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

Jones says, ‘Good hygiene and proper sanitation should never be an afterthought and the processes to avoid contamination should be common practice in all healthcare centres and food production, distribution and preparation facilities, as well as in general communities.’

He shares his top hygiene tips to keep South Africans healthy and reduce their risk of exposure to harmful bacteria:

Always wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food;
  • After going to the bathroom;
  • After touching animals or pet food;
  • Before and after treating a wound;
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing;
  • After changing a baby’s nappy; and
  • After touching rubbish or other waste.

Always wash fresh produce, cook meat thoroughly, follow storage and reheating instructions, and store cooked foods separately from uncooked foods.

Healthcare, childcare and food production facilities and equipment need to be cleaned, disinfected and sanitised regularly (this includes household kitchens, utensils, appliances and children’s toys).

Healthcare, childcare and food industry staff should always be dressed in the correct attire and have access to strong antibacterial soap to avoid potential contamination.

Jones adds that, with a lack of handwashing being such a major contributor to the spread of disease, it is encouraged that everyone rethinks how thorough they are when washing their hands.

‘There are four key factors to consider to ensure you have washed your hands properly. First, the water you use – regardless of whether it is hot or cold – needs to be clean. Second, always use an antibacterial soap. Third, you should lather your hands completely and scrub under your nails, then rinse with clean water. Lastly, but crucially, if you are going to use a towel to dry your hands, make sure that it is clean.’

‘Unfortunately, there is no substitute for thorough handwashing with soap and water, so disinfectant gels are not enough and should only be used as a temporary fix until handwashing facilities are available. With this in mind it needs to be said that water should be used wisely. Always turn the tap off after first wetting your hands and then again after rinsing,’ Jones concludes.