World Hand Hygiene Day May 2019

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Join the resistance – clean your hands

Advice for World Hand Hygiene Day, Sunday 5th May 2019

Do you know what the simplest thing you can do to save you, your family and your co-workers from becoming ill?  Believe it or not, it is to clean your hands properly.  It is the simplest, cheapest way of reducing the spread of illnesses such as tummy bugs, coughs, colds, and even superbugs. 

Sunday 5th May marks the World Health Organisation’s Hand Hygiene Day around the world. On World Hand Hygiene Day we all need to remember that to protect our health we all need to clean our hands thoroughly.

Professor Martin Cormican, HSE National Lead for Antibiotic Resistance says:

“Proper hand hygiene is such a critical issue for all of us both at home and in our health services. We are delighted that we are launching a new hand hygiene awareness programme (Resist) to mark World Hand Hygiene Day. The Resist programme is aimed at all healthcare workers and everyone who comes to the hospital, our patients and visitors. Our first three sites for the new programme include Cavan General Hospital, Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe and University Hospital Limerick.”

“Some infections found in hospitals can be very serious for our patients.  We can all help reduce the spread of these infections if our healthcare workers, patients and visitors all make sure that their hands are clean.  We want our staff to take part in the new hand hygiene training and join the Superbug Resistance to fight infection.  Our patients and visitors also play a big part in reducing the spread of infection and following our advice on hand cleaning.”

Dr Nuala O Connor, GP says:

“Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and others from illnesses such as vomiting, diarrhoea, coughs, colds, sore throat, flu, in fact virtually all infections. The other way we pick up infections is if someone coughs within three feet of us and we inhale their germs. No-one would want to touch or eat poo but millions of us across the world do that every day by not washing our hands properly.  Many infectious diseases are spread through microscopic amounts faecal matter (poo).”

Patients and their families/visitors play their part in reducing the spread of infection in hospital.  There are things you can do to protect yourself from picking up an infection or superbug while you are in or visiting hospital:

Clean your hands regularly and use the alcohol gel in the hospital. Always do this after you go to the toilet and before you eat.

  • Do not share your personal things with other patients – for example, your phone, your earphones, and so on.
  • Keep away from other patients’ beds.
  • Do not let anyone sit on your bed, and don’t sit on another patient’s bed.
  • It’s OK to remind staff to clean their hands.
  • It’s OK to tell a staff member if you see anything that is not clean.


Be a part of the superbug resistance and help us to fight the spread of infection.



Issued by HSE Press Office


Phone: 01 921 3912



Notes for editors:

See for more information about WHO World Hand Hygiene Day 2018 and helpful videos and information about good hand hygiene.  Please contact the HSE National Press Office to arrange an interview with Professor Martin Cormican or Dr. Nuala O’Connor.


Have a look at the video on proper hand washing. We often think we have washed our hands properly but have a look at this short experiment and you will be surprised


Tips for stopping infections spreading at home

The goal is to find a good balance between keeping your hands clean when it’s most important without limiting your enjoyment of life.  Particularly important times to wash your hand are:

  • When you have been in contact with a person or an animal with an infection
  • When you get back to your home from being out and about or at work, especially if your work involves a lot of contact with people or animals
  • Before starting to prepare or handle food
  • After touching raw meat including poultry
  • Before eating food
  • After using the toilet and after changing nappies


What can you do to protect yourself?

Have a read of our top tips and hand hygiene to protect yourself and your family:


When you wake up in the morning don’t rub your eyes…

According to a study by the Washington University School of Medicine, in a sample of bed sheets examined 18% were found to be contaminated by strains of Staphylococcus aureus.  This is a bacterium that can cause a number of diseases.  It means there is a significant risk that our hands will have a high amount of bacteria on them when we wake up in the morning. So the best thing to do is avoid rubbing your eyes and go straight to the bathroom to wash your face.


On the way to the office….

Public transport is where we all mingle a little bit too closely sometimes on busy buses, trains, the Dart or Luas.  Germs have the opportunity to be spread.   The handrails, seats and touchscreen where we purchase tickets have thousands of billions of microbes.  Of course most of the microbes are not dangerous for humans but some are.  Holding on to handrails is about the same as shaking someone’s hand.  But when you reach the office, make sure towash your hands before starting work or grabbing some breakfast.


Working in the office? Be wary of the technology…

Computers, phones and mobiles are a constant in our office environment, we can’t work without them. But how clean are they?   Research has shown that PCs, keyboards, phones are full of bacteria – a mouse has an average of 260 bacteria per centimetre squared, a keyboard has 511 and the mouthpiece of a telephone has an impressive 3,895!  Make sure you clean your tech equipment.


The toilet is fine - but watch out for the handles, taps and air hand dryers…

The real danger is not the toilet but the handles and taps.   Don’t touch the toilet seat with your hands if it’s visibly dirty.  Our skin acts as a protective barrier when we use the toilet - it is the largest organ in the human body.  Drying your hands with paper towel will reduce the bacterial count by 45 – 60% on your hands. However, using a hand dryer will increase the bacteria on your hands by up to 255% because it blows out bacteria already living in the, conveniently, warm moist environment.


Get more information

There are lots of tips on hand hygiene on and you can learn all about bacteria on  a teaching/ learning resource for schools and colleges (and parents!).  On ebug you can find out about bugs through quizzes, games and home science experiments.  Try them out – you’ll be surprised.