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Proper hand washing can be a basic survival skill against many contagious diseases.
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We know now that more than 1500 people are known to have died from the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, according to BBC News.
Ebola is a virus that normally resides harmlessly in bush meat, such as bats and monkeys. For it to be transmitted to humans there normally needs to be some kind of direct contact with the bodily fluids of these animals. Once inside the body it has an incubation period that can last from 2 days to a few weeks, during which it can be passed to other humans.
The requirement that Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids makes the potential spread of Ebola comparatively low when compared with some other diseases like the common cold.
Very contagious (not deadly) infections, such as Norovirus and the common cold, are often passed from person to person through indirect contact e.g the environment the infected person is on or touching their personal belonging like a laptop or keyboard.
Luckily, simple hygiene steps such as regular hand washing are often one of the most effective ways of preventing their spread.
When should you wash your hands?
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After touching garbage
How to wash your hands properly
The CDC tells us that the best was to wash your hands is:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Happy hand washing!