Handwashing is not just for coronavirus – how good hygiene could help reduce antibiotic use

hand washing

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Charlotte Edmond, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Coronavirus put focus on handwashing, but basic hygiene is crucial to stopping a variety of diseases.
  • Home hygiene has big role in reducing spread of antimicrobial resistance.
  • Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health.

One in six mobile phones have faecal matter on them. Globally, people wash their hands after using the toilet roughly one in five times. An office work station has 400 times more microbes than a toilet seat.

 

Improved everyday hygiene practices not only slow the spread of COVID-19, they also play a crucial role in reducing the risk of common infections and driving down antibiotic use. Home and community hygiene needs to be included as part of plans to reduce hundreds of thousands of deaths a year from antimicrobial resistance (AMR), according to a new paper developed on behalf of the Global Hygiene Council.

According to the paper, between November 2019 and March 2020 there were 16,500 deaths linked to SARS-CoV-2; in this same time 258,000 people would have died as a result of AMR.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

Clean water, sanitation and targeted hygiene can significantly reduce the circulation of resistant bacteria in homes and communities, irrespective of a country’s overall social and economic development, the authors say. And while much of the focus on targeting AMR has been on measures by healthcare providers, there needs to be a reduction in the community. “We cannot allow hygiene in home and everyday life settings to become the weak link in the chain,” says the paper.

Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
The chain of infection in home and everyday environments.
Image: AJIC

Home hygiene steps

Handwashing is one of the simplest and most effective ways available to prevent disease. Hands are the main carriers of harmful germs, and washing them with soap reduces the risk of diarrheal diseases by almost half.

While many pathogenic organisms die quickly, particularly on dry surfaces, there are others, including rhinovirus – the cause of the common cold – and norovirus – which causes diarrhea and vomiting – which survive longer. Places like kitchen sinks, sponges and cloths, which are often damp, can provide a breeding ground.

There are also certain household activities which are particularly likely to be linked to harmful microbial spread including food handling, using the toilet, changing nappies, doing laundry, caring for pets and disposing of rubbish.

Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Among critical surfaces in the home, hands are the biggest culprit in spreading infection.
Image: AJIC

Stopping the spread

Following basic cleanliness practices and limiting disease spread will enable doctors to cut back on antibiotic use and slow the development of drug-resistant strains. This resistance has developed largely as a result of over-prescribing and misuse of antibiotics, amplified by their use in farming. Poor hygiene allows resistant strains to multiply and spread.

Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest health threats we face.
Image: UK government

Antibiotic resistance has been identified as one of the biggest threats to global health, with a growing number of infections such as pneumonia, gonorrhea and salmonellosis becoming harder to treat as a result.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Trump declares emergency and WHO urges speed – latest coronavirus updates

Statement by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría on the outcome of COP 25

UN receives ‘Humanium’ wristwatch gift, symbolizing peaceful transformation

Cleaner Air in 2020: 0.5% sulphur cap for ships enters into force worldwide

Nearly $4 billion needed to protect 41 million children from conflict and disaster

UN global counter-terrorism strategy review an ‘overarching vision for the future’: Assembly President

How Africa’s women can drive the 4IR forward

G20 LIVE: The European Sting covers online world news and the latest developments at G20 from Antalya Turkey

UN agencies urge Brunei to repeal new ‘extreme and unjustified’ penal code

Can the national and age groups pockets of unemployment cause irreparable damages to Eurozone?

3 leaders on creating a pipeline for female talent in business

Draghi: A bridge from Brussels to Berlin

COVID-19: Commission presents guidelines for border measures to protect health and keep goods and essential services available

The importance of exchanges for the medical students of the world

A rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the war-torn Yemen

First EU collective redress mechanism to protect consumers

A vaccination race between nations can have no winners

Human Rights Day celebrates ‘tremendous activism’ of the world’s young people

Thursday’s Daily Brief: impact of bad working conditions, Syria and Libya humanitarian news, human rights in Bahrain, families reunified in South Sudan

What will higher education in Africa look like after COVID-19?

Commission presents far-reaching anti-tax evasion measures

US resolution to condemn activities of Hamas voted down in General Assembly

COVID-19 creates a perfect storm for the extreme weather season

Bilbao’s city parks offer brain-training games for the elderly

Road injuries leading cause of death for the young, despite safety gains: UN report

Let the Italians have it their way, it may be good for all Eurozone

There isn’t a single country on track to make the UN’s targets for gender equality

A Sting Exclusive: “Our Great Awakening, Rebuilding in a Culture of Collective Trauma”, by Dr Hokemeyer

There’s no vaccine for the infodemic – so how can we combat the virus of misinformation?

Women’s place in medicine

Nuclear testing has ‘disastrous consequences’ for people and planet, General Assembly told

International community has achieved unprecedented success fighting offshore tax evasion

International Women’s Day: Where does she belong?

It’s time to strengthen global digital cooperation

UN launches plan to promote peace, inclusive growth in Africa’s Sahel

What is ‘South-South cooperation’ and why does it matter?

3 ways India can tackle its human-waste problem

Obama, Crimea and the TTIP pill

Dinner with friends: how Switzerland is relaxing its coronavirus lockdown

CO2 emissions around the world

Coronavirus makes inequality a public health issue

Data is the oil of the digital world. What if tech giants had to buy it from us?

Single Market Scoreboard 2020: Member States need to do more to ensure the good functioning of the EU Single Market*

Can collective action cure what’s ailing our food systems?

How India is solving its cooling challenge

Soil erosion must be stopped ‘to save our future’, says UN agriculture agency

The Europe we want: Just, Sustainable, Democratic and Inclusive

These 3 tech visionaries are reinventing the wheelchair

This Central Asian lake is a stark reminder of the impact we have on the planet

Preventing and resolving conflicts must form ‘backbone’ of collective efforts – UN chief

New Eurobarometer Survey: Protecting the environment and climate is important for over 90% of European citizens

During the coronavirus pandemic, we must fight for LGBTQ rights more than ever

Hospitals in Yemen attacked, disrupting healthcare for thousands of vulnerable civilians

De Gucht: More gaffes with the talks on the EU-US free trade agreement

The 4 biggest challenges to our higher education model – and what to do about them

OECD tells Eurozone to prepare its banks for a tsunami coming from developing countries

Europe faces economic turmoil as Italy gets closer to the Excessive Debt Procedure

German opposition win in Lower Saxony felt all over Europe

2018 ‘terrifying’ for Yemenis but ultimately a ‘year for hope’ says UN Special Envoy

What is the UN General Assembly and what does it do?

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s