Germs are tough

Defeating germs: The breakdown of each hand washing step to rid germs.

Just because the flu season has ended is not a reason to stop washing your hands. Germs are everywhere – faucets, desks, keyboards, shopping carts, pens, pencils and especially hands. E. coli, Salmonella and other bacteria can live up to two hours on surfaces, like doorknobs, and tables. Some viruses can travel on droplets through the air and can be transferred from dry surfaces up to 20 minutes after being contaminated.

There are three ingredients to proper hand washing: Soap, warm water and friction. The soap suspends the dirt and soils, the friction motion helps to pull dirt, grease, or oily soils free from the skin, warm running water washes away suspended dirt and soils that trap germs and the final friction of drying hands removes more germs. The entire process should last 15 to 20 seconds. The use of waterless hand sanitizer is an acceptable method of washing hands, if soap and water are not available. The sanitizer should contain at least 60 percent alcohol and all dirt, food or other visible materials are removed from hands prior to using waterless hand sanitizer. These suggestions and more information on hand washing are available at the Food Safety Research Information Office.

Michigan State University Extension recommends proper hand washing as the single most important method of avoiding sickness and preventing the spread of disease. Your hands are the most exposed part of your body to germs. Germs can be easily transferred from hands to mouth, eyes, nose and food. Keep your family and yourself healthy by practicing good hand washing year-round.

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