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Celebrate Contact with Clean Hands

Jason Tetro
February 11, 2014

Valentines Day Hand HygieneWith Valentine’s Day approaching, the minds of many will turn to the subject of love. Expressing the emotion may take many forms: chocolate, cards and cuisine. Yet the most common communication at this time is the moment where two mutually adoring people come into contact. After all, touch is universally known as the display of one’s care for a colleague, contemporary or companion.

Unfortunately, the gesture is not only known as a means for emotional sharing, it is also a well-known and defined route for infection spread. Sadly, when the mind turns to human devotion, the commitment to hygiene may lapse, leaving the loved one languishing.

While there is little doubt that collegial, familial and casual affection is a natural part of human behaviour, there is an equal amount of evidence to suggest getting close can be contentious. Based on both theoretical and actual data contact can lead to widespread outbreaks – regardless of the pathogen. If left unattended by public health officials, it may become endemic within a population. The convention is also true for communal environments. When contact happens, it’s plentiful. When a contagion enters the chain, it spreads.

There is one more environment where contact is a compulsion although when it happens, the feeling is rarely one of love. Touch is a necessary condition of care; while there may be little emotional congruence, the infection connection still remains.

When it comes to consensual contact, the most effective counter to infection spread is hand hygiene. Yet, the results from observational studies concede that numbers are far lower than they should be. In the public context, the spread of infectious disease can occur without cessation – or until everyone has immunity if that is possible. But in the case of health care, the consequences can be significantly more complex.

The consternation can be discombobulating as the gap between knowledge and compliance, once thought to be a chasm, might very well be a canyon. Despite the numerous attempts to increase hand hygiene, there appears to be little means to either convince or coerce staff, visitors, and most importantly, the patients themselves.

But in light of Valentine’s Day, there may be a solution based not in commandments but instead corporeal courtship. It’s a simple saying that can catch the most chipper hygiene cheater and condition the cagiest contemner.

“No Soap, No Hope.”

The construction clones a similar catchphrase cemented by the anti-HIV movement. In that community, it is the choice for safety amongst the crowd. To certify similar success, there are some conditions that must be met. First, people must comprehend that the complacency of not washing hands confers a lack of commitment to contact. Next, people should respect that this saying offers no comment of concern or complaint. Finally, there must be commitment to the cause; only through proper hand hygiene can the consultation continue.

The concept covers one more goal which will challenge the conceit of contention and change the course for the future. It follows a psychological coping mechanism used not only in love but also in infection control. The convention is:

“To be sure hands are safe; you need a great deal of ‘see’.”

Think about it. Valentine’s Day is a material metaphor for love; it’s all about that ‘see’. Gifts and actions are observable ways to express an emotion that may or may not be there. “No Soap, No Hope,” takes this to a new level. If hand hygiene isn’t observed, it may or may not have happened; to be sure, it has to be seen.

Contact is part of our human existence; so are infections resulting from this activity. We want one but certainly not the other. To maximize this wish, and not just for Valentine’s Day, promote the “No Soap, No Hope,” principle. It’s a simple and effective means to enable everyone to ensure that contact, whether for love or health, is completely and clearly clean (microbiologically speaking anyways). 

views in various media.  You can learn more about Jason at the following link.

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