World Hand Hygiene Day

Author - Dr. Kavita Diddi - Specialist - Microbiology

When was the last time you washed your hands? Why is this important? Just look at these facts:

  • Eighty-one percent of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch. 
  • The recommended washing time by handrub is 30 seconds. 
  • Thirty percent of people who do wash their hands use soap.
  • A hundred times per 12-hour shift is how many times healthcare providers may need to wash their hands.
  • Forty percent of all foodborne illnesses in the USA result from poor handwashing hygiene.
  • Less than 50% compliance with hand hygiene guidelines globally.


In 1846, the heroic Hungarian physician Semmelweis made a profound observation. He noticed that mothers' deaths after childbirth were significantly lower when delivered by midwives than by physicians. Semmelweis, in his relentless pursuit of saving lives, discovered a shocking truth. The clinicians were unknowingly transmitting infections from one mother to another. This revelation introduced the crucial concept of hand hygiene among healthcare workers. Sadly, Semmelweis was only posthumously recognized for his groundbreaking work, a recognition that came too late due to the very infection he fought against. His legacy lives on, reminding us of the importance of hand hygiene in healthcare.


As time progressed, various measures were introduced to reduce the transmission of infections among patients, such as the use of gloves, gowns, masks, and advancements in operation theatre design. However, amidst these advancements, one practice has stood the test of time as the cornerstone of infection prevention is hand cleaning. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has not only underscored the critical importance of hand hygiene in healthcare settings but has also served as a stark reminder of its ongoing relevance and necessity. It is a reminder that we cannot afford to ignore, as it is a matter of life and death in the current health crisis. Your commitment to hand hygiene can save lives.


Yet, the reality is stark. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has estimated that, in the United States alone, a staggering 99,000 deaths each year are related to hospital-acquired infections. What is more alarming is that compromised hand hygiene practices are the leading cause of most of these infections. This is not just a statistic but a call to action, a plea to prioritize hand hygiene for patient safety. 


Handwashing to prevent Antibiotic resistance:

Teaching people about handwashing helps them and their communities stay healthy. Handwashing education in the community:

  • Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23-40% 
  • Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58% 
  • Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21% 
  • Reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal disease in schoolchildren by 29-57%

Reducing the number of these infections by washing hands frequently helps prevent the overuse of antibiotics—the single most crucial factor leading to antibiotic resistance worldwide.  No amount of technological progress in infection control can replace Hand hygiene. Embrace it as a lifestyle commitment for the safety of all. When anesthesia ensures pain-free surgeries, hand hygiene ensures the successful outcome of surgery by preventing infection. Practice hand hygiene, share knowledge, and prevent infection and antimicrobial resistance in the Silent Pandemic. 


About World Hand Hygiene Day, 2024

World Hand Hygiene Day, organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), is an annual global campaign promoting hand hygiene in healthcare and beyond. In 2024, the WHO's World Hand Hygiene Day continues its mission to raise awareness about the importance of hand hygiene as a simple yet effective way to prevent the spread of infections and improve public health outcomes. 


Still wondering why hand hygiene matters? The answer's in your hands! Learn, share, and practice proper handwashing this World Hand Hygiene Day. #WHHD2024


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