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Hand Hygiene Day is celebrated on the 5th May every year to highlight the crucial importance of hand hygiene in healthcare and to bring people together in support of hand hygiene improvement globally.

What is Sepsis?

The theme this year is all about preventing sepsis through hand hygiene and infection prevention and control (IPC). Sepsis occurs when a person has an infection and the body’s reaction injures tissues and organs. Sepsis is a serious global killer, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where it represents a major cause of maternal and newborn mortality.

Calls to Action

WHO have made five Calls to Action for this Hand Hygiene Day, aimed at key stakeholders involved in the prevention of sepsis:

  • Health workers: “Take 5 Moments to clean your hands to prevent sepsis in health care.”
  • IPC leaders: “Be a champion in promoting hand hygiene to prevent sepsis in health care.”
  • Health facility leaders: “Prevent sepsis in health care, make hand hygiene a quality indicator in your hospital.”
  • Ministries of Health: “Implement the 2017 World Health Assembly Sepsis Resolution. Make hand hygiene a national marker of health care quality.”
  • Patient Advocacy Groups: “Ask for 5 Moments of clean hands to prevent sepsis in health care.”

The Calls to Action highlight the importance and impact of the simple intervention of hand hygiene in preventing infections and saving lives.

Why Should I Wash My Hands?

Hand hygiene is key to protecting yourself from harmful pathogens that cause illness and disease, and to protecting others through preventing the spread of those pathogens.

Within healthcare settings, hand hygiene is an important infection prevention activity, helping to stop the spread pathogens that cause healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs). These infections can cause additional illness for patients, long-term disability, or in the most serious cases, can result in death. Studies have shown that practising hand hygiene achieves a reduction in HCAIs. Preventing HCAIs means savings in treatment time and health facility resources, and fewer antibiotics used in patient treatment, contributing to the fight against the rising global crisis of Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR).

Despite these facts, approximately 70% of healthcare workers and 50% of surgical teams fail to routinely practice hand hygiene.

hand hygiene day

How Do Pathogens Spread?

Pathogens can be spread in a number of ways, for example, through coughing and sneezing. However, pathogens that cause HCAIs such as sepsis are most commonly spread by hands.

Surfaces such as bed rails and door handles in a healthcare environment are often contaminated with pathogens. Harmful pathogens can survive on surfaces, including patient care equipment, for days and sometimes weeks.

Clean hands are the single most important factor in preventing the spread of pathogens from person to person and from the environment. In a health facility setting, hand hygiene concerns not only staff but patients and visitors too. A clean environment is also critical to ensure hands are not re-contaminated after they have been cleaned.

How Should I Wash My Hands?

WHO presents 10 easy steps to handwashing which take just 40-60 seconds to complete. See below for the recommended guidelines:

What are the 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene?

WHO’s 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene provide clear recommendations for when hand hygiene should be performed in a health facility setting. The aim of these guidelines is to prevent the spread of harmful pathogens and protect both patients and staff.

What Do All The Acronyms Mean?

The resources and information shared around Hand Hygiene Day use lots of different acronyms! We’ve compiled a list to help make sense of them all.

AMR Antimicrobial Resistance A rising global resistance to antibiotics, making them redundant and infections harder to treat
HCAIs Healthcare Associated Infections Develop either as a direct result of healthcare interventions such as surgical treatment, or from being in a healthcare setting. HCAIs include infections acquired at work by health facility staff.
IPC Infection Prevention & Control Actions such as hand hygiene taken to prevent and stop the spread of harmful pathogens
SDGs Sustainable Development Goals The global goals set by the United Nations to address poverty and protect people & the planet. Goals 3 & 6 address good health and well-being, and access to clean water and sanitation.
SSI Surgical Site Infections A type of healthcare-associated infection in which a wound infection occurs after an invasive surgical procedure
WASH Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene These three core themes are grouped together as they are all interlinked; for example without clean water, basic hygiene practices are not possible.

Access to safe water, adequate sanitation and good hygiene can help reduce illness and infection. WASH infrastructure and resources such as functioning sinks and soap are needed to help achieve good hand hygiene.

WHO World Health Organisation A global organisation focusing on the improvement of international health and the leading organiser of Hand Hygiene Day.

More Resources:

Global Sepsis Alliance

WHO Hand Hygiene Day resources

5 Moments of Hand Hygiene

Also, check out Soapbox’s Hand Hygiene Day 2017 where we explained more about how Soapbox works to support infection prevention.