I’ve got germs on my mind today. Specifically I had an appointment with the travel clinic at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston to prepare for an upcoming business trip to Uganda. Along with the challenging logistics of getting there, there are a few issues to worry about, like malaria, Yellow Fever, hepatitis, typhoid and meningitis. I was impressed with the nurse I met at the clinic. She went through the preparations and recommendations with me, and tactfully brought in the Chief of the BI Infectious Disease division for some friendly persuasion when she sensed (correctly) my resistance to a particular recommendation.
After reading about disease transmission and precautions for Uganda I was well prepped for the front-page Wall Street Journal article (Restroom Decor: Germy Doorknobs Inspire Inventors), which talks about strategies patrons employ to avoid touching their clean hands to the bathroom door knob on the way out. Some use paper towels, some a “pinky pull,” and others wash up again once they leave. Then there are handles that can be operated with an elbow, automatic door openers, foot pedals, and sprayers that disinfect the handle on a regular basis (without dripping, of course.)
The article quoted some statistics I’ve seen before, from a Soap and Detergent Association and American Society for Microbiology study that showed 34 percent of men and 12 percent of women don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. But it reminded me of another figure that the Associated Press published recently, which indicated that compliance with handwashing in the hospital is about 40 percent. (I don’t know where that figure came from and of course it could be bogus.) If it’s true, that means 60 percent aren’t washing, which is worse than the general public’s bathroom habits.
I know that the numbers aren’t really comparable, but it does make you wonder.February 15, 2008