Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Hand washing has received wide scale attention after the swine flu pandemic that has affected more than 50 countries and is predicted to become more virulent in the coming months. It is not that man is not aware about the efficacy of hand washing in curtailing spread of viral infection in general but the helplessness in controlling viral disease like swine flu, for which there is no vaccine available yet, appears to have pitchforked hand washing to the center, with some hope that this will halt or at least reduce the progress of this disease to some extent. The desperate situation even led to observing a day recently as hand washing day in many countries!

In spite of the mass media going full throat in reporting about the mortality due to swine flu around the world and many promotional efforts to sensitize people regarding the importance of hygiene, impact seems to be practically zero! According to a study in Australia, "three out of 10 men you shake hands with won't have washed after going to the toilet. For women, it's fewer than one in 10, according to a study by the nation's Food Safety Information Council. The observational study of 200 people, who used the public loos at a food hall in an Australian shopping center, also showed no improvement in post-toilet hand-washing since 2002". Probably the survey can be faulted for the limited number of subjects chosen but it is a pointer to what could happen in the modern society where people are more obsessed with their day to day chores, ignoring more serious life threatening issues.

Though there are many ways of sanitizing the hand, washing with soap and plenty of water is considered most efficient as the accumulated virus is loosened and washed away. Virus is known to be transferred from surfaces which are contaminated through sneezing or coughing by the carriers, especially in public places or through direct contact by shaking hands with infected persons. The mute question is how the common man in a country like India can get access to clean water or soap in public places for hand washing when even the basic amenities like clean toilets and water are not easily available, even in metros! Hand washing message, under such trying conditions may look more like preaching, knowing fully well that it cannot be practiced every where.


No comments: