The recent outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) here has drawn greater attention to the overall standards of hygiene in the country.
After all, it cannot be denied that the disease would not have spread so quicly if our washrooms and toilets are cleaner and more hygienic, and more importantly, if we are more diligent in keeping our hands clean.
According to Initial Hygiene Malaysia, studies show that there can be as many as 1,000 bacteria on per sq cm of your hands, which makes a sick person a hotbed of germs.
Of the hundreds of people who use a public washroom daily, it only takes one person carrying a virus or bacteria to contaminate the entire place.
This may sound scary, but let’s break it down to awareness of the kinds of germs that spread easily and how these are spread.
Besides HFMD, what kinds of germs are commonly spread?
During times of outbreak, toilets and restrooms are one of the main channels for spreading diseases such as HFMD, typhoid, salmonella, mers-cov and Sars.
Door handles are known for spreading Staphylococcus aureus infections, which cause skin rash, food poisoning and respiratory diseases. Food preparation surfaces can spread norovirus and escherichia, which lead to gastroenteritis and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
How exactly do germs spread?
Germs can be unintentionally transmitted in three basic ways. For example, a sick person may touch a surface (such as a door handle) or sneeze onto a surface, so when you touch the same surface, you pick up the germs.
You may also shake hands with a sick person or come into direct contact with their hands in any other way, thus transferring the germs to your hands.
A sick person may have handled a piece of food that you eat, thereby bringing the germs directly into your mouth.
What about the complete wash-dry-sanitise hand hygiene routine?
It is important to diligently practice a three-step approach when it comes to hand hygiene: Wash, dry and sanitise.
Hand washing is a simple and fundamental way to control the spread of infections, such as colds and flu which can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. Hands must be washed thoroughly. This means washing with soap for 45 seconds before and after using the washroom.
This careful routine can decrease the number of bacteria on your hands by up to 80 per cent.
Drying hands with paper towels or air dryers after washroom use is also an essential factor.
The third and final crucial step is finally gaining more popularity of late. Now, there are more hand sanitisers in washrooms, especially those in office buildings. A high quality hand sanitiser is usually an alcohol- based, quick drying solution which kills 99.9 per cent of germs including swine flu (H1N1), MRSA, e-coli and salmonella, amongst many others.
How important is touchless technology?
Touchless technology is the logical step forward in the future of washroom hygiene. In fact, the trend to use more touchless or sensor-based technology in public areas is growing. This means automatic doors for most public areas, automated water taps, automated hand dryers and so on.
Touchless hand soap dispensers, hand paper towel dispensers, hand sanitisers and feminine hygiene units (sanitary bins) will help prevent the spread of germs and viruses.