Not just coronavirus, staying hygienic cuts risk of common infections

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Health officials around the world advise that deliberate, regular handwashing is one of the best weapons against the virus which causes a flu-like respiratory illness that can kill and has spread to around 80 countries.
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London: Researchers have found that improved everyday hygiene practices, such as hand-washing, reduces the risk of common infections by up to 50 per cent, thus reducing the need for antibiotics by up to 30 per cent.

As witnessed during the recent global efforts to delay the spread of COVID-19, hygiene practices, including hand-washing, have become an essential part of everyone's daily routine and are considered to be the first line of defence in reducing the spread of common infections.

"In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and evidence presented in this study, it is more urgent than ever for policymakers to recognise the role of community hygiene to minimise the spread of infections, which in turn will help in reducing the consumption of antibiotics and help the fight against antimicrobial resistance," said study researcher Jean-Yves Maillard from Cardiff University in the UK.

The study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, explored the role of targeted hygiene in the home and everyday life settings to reduce antibiotic prescribing and its likely impact on antibiotic resistance.

It provides evidence that practising hand hygiene in homes and community settings can prevent infections and therefore reduce the need for antibiotics.

One intervention study demonstrated a 30 per cent reduction of antibiotic prescriptions for common respiratory infections in a group who used hand sanitisers compared with a control group.

The study also showed the increasing prevalence of multidrug-resistant bacteria in the home and community.

It is considered that 35 per cent of common infections occurring in healthcare and the community are already resistant to antibiotics and that in some low-and middle-income countries, resistance to antibiotics is as high as 90 per cent.

"With evidence to show that home and community hygiene urgently needs to be taken more seriously, it is time for the global community to collaborate and recognise that reducing the need for antibiotics is important," the researchers noted.

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