Today is World Hand Hygiene Day, an occasion being promoted by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands” campaign. This WHO initiative is aimed primarily at improving hand hygiene in healthcare facilities around the world, in order to help reduce healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) (e.g. infections that people develop while in hospital). Also to mark World Hand Hygiene Day, the CDC has launched its new hand hygiene website, which has tons of information on hand hygiene basics, guidelines, resources for promotional campaigns, and information for patients.

Hand hygiene is one of the most important aspects of controlling infection in human hospitals, but that’s certainly not the only place where it can be beneficial. It is also very important in veterinary hospitals, to help prevent the spread of infection between animals, whether they’re sick or they’ve just had surgery. Here on the Worms & Germs blog, we also talk a lot about using proper hand hygiene to help prevent the spread of zoonotic pathogens from pets to people. Even at home, just like in hospitals, our hands are one of the most common ways bacteria and viruses move from one surface to another, from one person to another, and from just about anything into our mouths (either directly or via our food). Dirt on your hands is easy to see, and it makes it easy to remember to wash your hands. The bigger concern is the microscopic amounts of dirt and germs on your hands that you can’t see, and the best way to take care of that is really to make hand hygiene part of your routine. Make it something that just naturally goes along with playing with your pet, or cleaning the cat’s litterbox, or poop-scooping after your dog. Although most of the time it may not be a matter of saving lives, it’s certainly a matter of saving people from being sick. Make hand hygiene a habit, and don’t just do it for yourself – do it for all the people (and pets!) you live with and interact with everyday.