Hand washing: process of getting infection or promoting quality state of health?
Hand washing, also known as hand hygiene is the act of cleaning one’s hands with soap and water to remove viruses, dirt or any other harmful and unwanted substances stuck to the hands.
Drying of the washed hands is also part of the process as wet and moist hands could easily be contaminated.
This means regular hand washing is undoubtedly the best and safest way to remove germs, prevent the spread of germs to others, whether at home, at work, traveling and in the community to avoid getting sick.
This presupposes that proper hand hygiene is vital to lowering infectious disease transmission as research has also shown that hand washing, one of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) preventive protocols, if religiously and regularly practised would help to prevent the spread of not only the deadly COVID-19 but any other contagious disease that is basically transmitted by the hands or palms.
The whole world woke up one day in late 2019 to hear of the COVID-19 and besides infecting a lot of people in diverse ways, it has devastatingly killed millions of the world population as currently the World Health Organisation (WHO) puts the figure of death cases at 3,499,647.
It (COVID-19) is deadly though, symptom wise most infected people developed mild to moderate illness and recovered without hospitalization but just followed the preventive protocols and other prescribed and required treatments by the health authorities such as WHO internationally and nationally the Ghana Health Service (GHS).
Information by health authorities indicated most susceptible people who could easily fall prey to the COVID-19 and were/are most likely to develop serious illnesses were/are older people and persons with underlying medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease.
One of the modes of COVID-19 infections is touching an object that an infected person had touched and then touching one’s mouth, nose and the eyes.
To prevent COVID-19 from further spreading in communities, simple precautions such as physical and social distancing, wearing of nose/face mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, washing/cleaning of hands and coughing into a bend elbow or hand tissue.
These were introduced by health authorities to help in reducing ones risk of infection.
That’s ensuring thorough cleaning of all surfaces and areas of ones hands, palms, fingers and wrists with soap under running water remains one of the best defenses against the COVID-19 virus.
Hence hand washing at regular intervals must be encouraged after coughing or sneezing, when caring for the sick, after using the toilet, before eating, while preparing food and after handling animals or animal waste.
Furthermore after touching common surfaces such as doorknobs or handles, after one had returned home following a visit to a public place will keep others around one safe.
Thus promoting hand hygiene at all levels of health care has become critical. It is a very simple action and well-accepted to be one of the primary modes of reducing health care-associated infection and of enhancing patient safety.
Hand hygiene has come to stay as the use of ‘Veronica bucket’ serves as a simple way to encourage proper hand washing with soap under flowing water in front of houses, shops, institutions, at market places and lorry parks and all vantage points by everybody to keep the public safe.
Ghana has taken a step of hand washing towards ending the risk of diseases’ infections with a simple Veronica bucket device which comprises a bucket and a basin on top of a wooden/metal stand placed outside for the public to wash hands to save lives.
But there is one important aspect of this hand washing practice that everybody seems to have ignored. That’s the source of water in the veronica bucket. Some cleaners who mostly filled the bucket could not carry it to the stream or to the tap since it is heavy but rather prefer using any smaller bucket they come across to fetch water and pour into the veronica bucket.
A cleaner, Madam Adwoa Kisiwaah of a reputable institution interviewed by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Sunyani stated that the mop bucket she uses in cleaning the floor is the same container that she uses to fetch water into the Veronica bucket for hand washing by the general public. Mad. Kisiwah stated she had no other option than to do that because she could not carry the veronica bucket to the tap at the wash room or the stand pipe behind the building of that institution.
So the question or a problem posed by the situation now is, are we all washing our hands under clean running water devoid of contaminations or we are rather adding to our woes of many other infectious diseases?
Another cleaner, Mad. Ama Afrakoma honestly responded to a question about the last time she washed the container in front of an office where she cleans that “I always top up the water since it does not finish before the day ends. So I come always to find the veronica bucket not empty and have to fill it to the brim”
Hopefully, based on the experiences of these two cleaners, everyone must have a second look and think twice before stretching off one’s hands under any veronica bucket one comes across to wash one’s hands with the view to cleaning one’s hands.
The most serious aspect is about the kids, particularly school children who sometimes after washing their hands with water from veronica buckets go ahead to eat without rinsing their hands with a whole cleaner water.
If this persists, then preferably the use of hand sanitizers must rather be encouraged even after washing the hands to ensure our hands are really clean.
Recommendations to parents and Guardians
Parents and guardians must provide hand sanitizers to their children and wards whenever they are going out, either to school, church or any public place and encourage them to use their hand sanitizers even after hand washing because they might not know the state of the water quality.
Dirty water is any water that is contaminated with disease-causing substances and could transmit diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and many other diseases.
If care is not taken, as individuals or families, we might be washing our hands with the view to preventing COVID -19 but might end up being infected with other contaminated water diseases, because the water used might have not met the standard of a quality water.
Dr. John Ekow Otoo, a Deputy Bono Regional Director of the GHS in-charge of Public Health in an interview with the GNA expressed worry over the situation, stating it was very unfortunate that at some, if not most places the veronica buckets were not being kept well to conform to the objective of washing hands with soap under clean flowing water.’
“The principle of hand washing is for the soap to break up the dirt for a clean water to wash it away” he said.
Dr Otoo emphasized depending on how dirty the water might be, one could be infected if he/ she ate with the stained hand after washing with dirty water.
Hand washing must not fade up from the system even if COVID-19 is totally defeated by the country and the world in general.
This is because the practice could protect a person from getting sick and could also eradicate substantially most diseases likely caused by organisms from the palm.
If not in front of offices and at vantage points, Veronica buckets must be provided with clean water to serve its primary purpose.
Frequent visits to offices by strangers, clients and customers to transact businesses could attract infections, but if all hands were washed before entry that might help to reduce contaminations.
The schools especially should uphold such practice to keep the children save from infectious diseases because some school children after playing and touching surfaces of their desk eat with their hands unwashed.
But at lease if a Veronica bucket filled with water is placed on the school compound that could at least prompt the child to wash the hands before eating.