Hand Washing: A Simple Step

By Barbara J. Masters, D.V.M.

How many of you have ever sat in a public location, such as the airport, and watched the number of people that enter the restroom talking on their cell phone?  Creepy, huh?  Not nearly as creepy as the same number of people that exit a very short time later still talking on their cell phone.  I always question how they washed their hands.

According to the Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC), “Washing hands prevents illnesses and spread of infections to others.”  It is a simple step we can all take before, during, and after preparing food, before eating, after using the toilet or assisting a child use the toilet, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, after touching animals or animal food or animal waste, and after touching garbage.  Washing hands keeps them clean and prevents the spread of bacteria that can make people sick.

It is especially critical to wash your hands when preparing food to prevent the spread of common foodborne bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella.  To wash your hands, use soap and warm water and lather your hands for at least twenty seconds.  It is important to get the back of your hands, between fingers and under your nails.  If you are not certain how long twenty seconds is, hum “Happy Birthday” two times while washing.

If you are out on a picnic or do not have access to soap and water, then use of a hand sanitizer can be substituted.  If you must use a sanitizer, first wipe hands with a paper towel or a napkin to remove the visible dirt.  Then apply the sanitizer and rub hands together until the sanitizer dries.

The CDC has promotional materials that can be utilized to encourage hand washing at your work site or in schools.  Clean hands are a simple step we can all take to improve public health.

About Dr. Masters

Mixed in with the attorneys at OFW Law is the former USDA Food Safety Inspection Service’s (FSIS) Administrator, Dr. Barbara Masters.  Dr. Masters is a veterinarian who spent eighteen years with FSIS – the final three years as Acting Administrator and Administrator.  During her rise to the Administrator’s position, Dr. Masters served as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Office of Field Operations.  While in these key leadership positions at FSIS, Dr. Masters’ primary focus was on the implementation of science-based policies for the protection of public health.