As the winter months are approaching the Public Health Agency (PHA) is using Global Handwashing Day on October 15 to remind people of the need to maintain good hand hygiene. This will help to reduce the risk of picking up or spreading winter viruses such as influenza and norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug.
The PHA is urging everyone to make a habit of regularly washing their hands with soap and warm water. Older people and those with underlying health conditions need to be particularly aware of ways to reduce their risk of picking up infections.
The PHA recommends simple, practical steps to minimise the risk of illness and infection including:
- Always maintain good personal hygiene. Wash your hands frequently, especially after visits to the toilet, and before preparing or eating food.
- Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, throw the tissue in the bin and wash your hands as soon as you can.
- Encourage children to wash their hands frequently and use tissues as well.
- Help older people, or those with underlying health conditions, to practice good hand hygiene.
- If you have vomiting or diarrhoea, or influenza-like symptoms don’t visit friends or relatives in hospital or residential and nursing homes. Avoid visiting your GP’s surgery – it is much better to phone for advice first.
Dr Brian Smyth, Acting Assistant Director of Public Health (Health Protection), PHA, said: “As Global Handwashing Day approaches, PHA would like to remind the public that everyone can play their part in preventing the spread of winter viruses.
“Receiving the seasonal influenza vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting ‘flu, so if you are in an ‘at risk’ group get the vaccine. The next most effective way to prevent the spread of viruses is through always practicing good hand hygiene; effective hand hygiene takes less than a minute!
“Clean hands are vital in controlling the spread of viruses and other infections. Anti-bacterial gels and wipes are not a substitute for washing hands with soap and water as gels/wipes may not be able to remove contamination in the way that running water can. However they may be useful if handwashing facilities are not available.”
Further information on hand hygiene and washing techniques are available in an information leaflet which can be accessed on the PHA website: