Fri | Mar 23, 2018

Hand hygiene key to safe care, prevention of antibiotic resistance

Published:Wednesday | May 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM
A simple thing as washing hands in a hospital can save a life

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), 61 per cent of health workers do not sanitise their hands when necessary, which puts people at risk of contracting infections. Hence, it is calling on countries and health centres to strengthen prevention and control of infections.

As PAHO noted, the lack of adequate and timely hand hygiene raises the risk of health-care-associated infections and the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which threatens patients' lives.

As part of the 'SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands' campaign, which took place on Friday, PAHO called for improved hand hygiene to prevent antimicrobial resistance.

The fight against antibiotic resistance is in your hands is the motto of this year's campaign, led by the World Health Organization (WHO).

It is estimated that 61 per cent of health workers around the world do not sanitise their hands when necessary, and that one in 10 people contract an infection while receiving health care.

"Infections associated with health care represent the most frequent adverse occurrence in Latin America during hospital care," said Jonas Gonseth-Garcia, PAHO/WHO advisor on quality health systems and services. "These can be avoided with hand hygiene."

To make it easier for health workers to clean their hands at the right time and in the right way, hospitals and health centres must make alcohol solution easily accessible," Gonseth-Garcia said. "They will help protect people from infections that often put their lives at risk."


Resistance to antibiotics is one of the greatest threats to global health, food security and development. Increasing numbers of serious infections are becoming more difficult to treat because of the loss of efficacy of antibiotics.

"Antibiotic-resistant bacteria prolong hospitalisation, increase medical costs, and most worryingly, increase mortality," said Pilar Ramon Pardo, PAHO/ WHO's antimicrobial resistance adviser.

A measure as simple as hand hygiene prevents the transmission of bacteria, which is critical in health facilities. When new infections are prevented, the use of antibiotics is reduced, and consequently, the development of resistance is also prevented.

"Cleaning your hands takes 20 seconds, but developing new antibiotics takes years," Ramon Pardo said.

PAHO/WHO calls on policymakers to stop the spread of antibiotic resistance, making infection prevention and hand hygiene a national policy priority. It also calls for the implementation of essential WHO components for the prevention and control of infections, including hand hygiene as an effective measure to combat antibiotic resistance.

And it advocates that hospital managers and managers maintain effective disease prevention and control programmes associated with health care throughout the year, to protect people.


The five key moments for hand hygiene recommended by WHO are:

1. Before touching the individual.

2. Before performing a clean or aseptic task

3. After the risk of exposure to body fluids.

4. After touching the individual.

5. After contact with the person's environment.

For more information on the campaign, visit: