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Effective hand hygiene reduces infection risk by 30%

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(Vienna, 28 April 2017) Hand hygiene is the simplest and most effective way of preventing the transfer of pathogens and hence the spread of infections in healthcare institutions. Hand hygiene with hand disinfection before and after a patient contact, either by treating doctors or visitors, reduces the infection risk by 30%. Elisabeth Presterl, Head of the Department of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control at MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital emphasised this point prior to the forthcoming World Hand Hygiene Day on 5 May.

This year, in a joint initiative with the Children's' Hospital, the Department is running two action days for children in the hospital and their parents, which will include showing them how to wash and disinfect their hands correctly. These events will take place on 3 and 5 May. "Hand hygiene is particularly important in a hospital. Even for visitors." Also, Presterl adds: "It is equally important that people do not visit, if they are themselves ill. The risk of infection is too great." At the same time, she does not believe in "excessive" hygiene for children in everyday life: "They should be allowed to be children and get dirty sometimes but hand-washing is very important when they come home and after they have been to the toilet."

Good hand hygiene reduces the infection risk by 30% – just by a quick and simple routine: "Hand hygiene is simple, effective and takes less than 30 seconds but can nevertheless save lives," stresses Presterl. "In view of the growing number of multi-resistant pathogens, we must always remember how important it is for preventing the transfer of infections and the pathogens that cause them." International studies have shown that merely increasing the hand disinfection rate from 48% to 66% reduces the infection rate from 17% to 10%.

Vienna General Hospital and MedUni Vienna have been successfully implementing the hand hygiene campaign entitled "Clean hands save lives" for some years now: they have managed to increase hand hygiene compliance by more than 10%. This system reminds us of the five key times for hand hygiene/disinfection: 1) before contact with a patient 2) before any aseptic procedure 3) after contact with potentially infectious material 4) after contact with a patient and 5) after contact with patients' immediate surroundings.

Hospital hygiene anchored in law
Austria is one of the few European countries that has legislated on hospital hygiene in the form of the Federal Law on Hospitals and Sanatoria. The next prevalence study on hand hygiene in Europe is due to be completed in 2017. Austrian hospitals currently fall within the middle range in terms of hand hygiene compliance. "The aim of our campaign is to increase awareness about it even further," says Presterl. "We have generally forgotten to think in terms of hygiene in our everyday working procedures."

Event: World Hand Hygiene Day on 5 May 2017 / Action days on 3 and 5 May
International World Hand Hygiene Day takes place every year on 5 May: MedUni Vienna's Department of Hospital Hygiene is therefore running two action days for children who have been admitted to the Children's Hospital and their parents. These will take place between 11:00 and 13:00 hours on 3 and 5 May. However, members of the public are also welcome to participate in the events held in the foyer of the outpatient department. Children and adults will learn how to wash and disinfect their hands properly and how the results can be checked under UV light.

It is also planned to hold regular hand hygiene events for schools at the Department of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control of MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital, starting in Autumn 2017.