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World Hand Hygiene Day: WHO Expert Answers Questions About The Link Between Clean Hands And Health

Professor Benedetta Allegranzi, Technical Lead, Infection prevention and control (IPC) department, WHO answers some common questions around hand hygiene and how clean hands can save lives

World Hand Hygiene Day: WHO Expert Answers Questions About The Link Between Clean Hands And Health

New Delhi: According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), hands are the main pathways of germ transmission and thus hand hygiene is the most important measure to avoid the spread of infections and keep people healthy. With an aim to promote the practice of hand hygiene among people, particularly in health care settings, WHO launched a global campaign “Save Lives: Clean Your Hands” in 2009 which is celebrated annually as World Hand Hygiene Day on May 5. To mark the day, Professor Benedetta Allegranzi, Technical Lead, Infection prevention and control (IPC) department, WHO answers some common questions around hand hygiene and the link between clean hands and health.

Also Read: World Hand Hygiene Day: Wash Your Hands Regularly And Prevent These Diseases From Spreading

How does hand hygiene save lives?

Professor Allegranzi: There is really overwhelming evidence that hand hygiene can prevent infections. It is also well known that it prevents the spread of COVID-19 and other acute respiratory viruses. But also, for many years we know that handwashing at the community level reduces the impact and morbidity of Gastroenteritis (stomach flu) which causes Diarrhoea which is still the third biggest cause of deaths among children less than the age of 10 years. So, handwashing is a very effective action that takes only a few seconds and is capable of saving many lives.

For how many seconds should one wash their hands?

Professor Allegranzi: In healthcare, the action of performing hand hygiene needs to be quite thorough. One needs to cover all surfaces of one’s hands and use specific movements to obtain complete surface coverage on hands. This means that with alcohol-based hand rubs, it takes 20-30 seconds to become fully effective while the whole procedure of handwashing with soap and water including drying takes 40 to 60 seconds to be the most effective.

Why is there so much focus on hand hygiene in health care?

Professor Allegranzi: Every year we have a theme and the focus this year is achieving hand hygiene action at the point of care. So what we mean by point of care is where care is delivered- any act of care is given to a patient, whether therapeutic or preventive including the vaccination sites. For example, these days as COVID-19 vaccination drives are going on, so at the sites where the COVID vaccine is being administered, that point is the point of care. So, this is the focus of the campaign this year.

Hand hygiene among health care workers is extremely important because unfortunately, during the ongoing pandemic, a number of health care providers died while providing care due to COVID-19 and also for other reasons. Improving hand hygiene along with other protective measures like providing personal protective equipment (PPE) is crucial for protecting the health care providers.

Also Read: World Hand Hygiene Day: The Day Dedicated To The Importance Of Hand Hygiene In Health Care And To Remind That Clean Hands Save Lives

What should be provided in a health setting to ensure proper hand hygiene?

Professor Allegranzi: As a health care worker, one should be able to access hand hygiene facilities at any point of care. There needs to be a sink, soap, water, hand towels, alcohol-based hand rub and other such supplies and infrastructure for the health care workers so that they can perform hand hygiene when it is needed.

We see that we still have defective hand hygiene infrastructure, especially in low and middle-income countries. As per a survey that we recently performed, there are only 17 per cent health care facilities in low-income countries that have a continuous provision of alcohol-based hand rubs as compared to 75 per cent in the high-income countries.

What kind of products should one use to wash hands?

Professor Allegranzi: One can simply use plain soap and water to wash hands or alcohol-based hand rub. The hand rubs which are normally called hand sanitisers should contain 60 to 70 per cent of alcohol. Hand rubs can be kept in pockets and can be made easily available for exercising hand hygiene.

Are hand sanitisers more effective than handwashing?

Professor Allegranzi: Alcohol-based hand sanitisers have a high level of efficacy against a very broad range of pathogens from viruses to bacteria and fungi. It allows the faster killing of pathogen and a high reduction of the burden of these germs on our hands. That is why hand sanitisers are considered more efficacious. When the hands are visibly soiled, one should wash with soap and water. For COVID-19, handwashing is good, provided that it is performed in the right way.

If one washes their hand, can they shake hands with others?

Professor Allegranzi: As COVID-19 is still widespread, we recommend to avoid contacts between people including shaking hands.

Can salt and water clean hands?

Professor Allegranzi: No, there is no evidence that salt and water can help clean hands. Also, it can do harm probably as it is not good for your skin.

Can one use ash or sand to clean their hands?

Professor Allegranzi: Well, there is some evidence from years ago that using ash can be effective to prevent some bacterial infections. We recently performed a review of the evidence for the use of ash for respiratory viruses and Covid and at the moment there is no good evidence that this is effective.

Also Read: Opinion: Sustained Handwashing Behaviour In India – A Necessity During COVID-19 Pandemic

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene


Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 22,70,55,138 and 46,70,253 have died; 18,97,86,461 are active cases and 3,25,98,424 have recovered as on September 17, 2021 at 5:36 am.


3,33,81,728 34,403Cases
3,25,98,424 37,950Recovered
4,44,248 320Deaths
In India, there are 3,33,81,728 confirmed cases including 4,44,248 deaths. The number of active cases is 3,39,056 and 3,25,98,424 have recovered as on September 17, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths

65,11,525 3,595

52,893 310

63,20,310 3,240

1,38,322 45


44,46,228 22,182

1,86,754 4,559

42,36,309 26,563

23,165 178


29,65,191 1,108

16,202 282

29,11,434 808

37,555 18

Tamil Nadu

26,40,361 1,693

16,756 120

25,88,334 1,548

35,271 25

Andhra Pradesh

20,34,786 1,367

14,708 105

20,06,034 1,248

14,044 14

Uttar Pradesh

17,09,628 23

193 11

16,86,549 11

22,886 1

West Bengal

15,59,567 707

8,025 25

15,32,922 725

18,620 7


14,38,373 28

409 5

14,12,880 22

25,084 1


10,18,298 580

5,335 105

10,04,845 681

8,118 4


10,04,988 31

352 2

9,91,077 29



9,54,230 4

103 1

9,45,173 5



8,25,677 22

149 0

8,15,446 22


Madhya Pradesh

7,92,374 7

119 5

7,81,738 12



7,70,697 9

327 8

7,60,562 17



7,25,864 12

72 6

7,16,134 6



6,62,785 259

5,282 43

6,53,603 301

3,900 1


6,01,180 30

314 11

5,84,399 38

16,467 3


5,97,074 468

5,381 15

5,85,914 479

5,779 4


3,48,102 6

102 8

3,42,867 14



3,43,330 20

284 12

3,35,657 32


Jammu And Kashmir

3,27,466 170

1,421 72

3,21,630 98


Himachal Pradesh

2,16,430 127

1,568 82

2,11,215 206

3,647 3


1,75,183 95

699 1

1,71,195 96



1,25,170 107

963 63

1,22,380 42

1,827 2


1,17,913 216

2,614 7

1,13,478 219

1,821 4


83,787 31

427 26

82,553 56

807 1


78,958 229

1,804 140

75,784 86

1,370 3


76,591 1,121

13,888 85

62,449 1,202

254 4


65,168 4

31 2

64,319 2


Arunachal Pradesh

53,990 47

536 9

53,183 56



30,802 64

775 28

29,648 36



30,763 32

505 14

29,610 44

648 2


20,631 6

41 1

20,383 5


Dadra And Nagar Haveli


5 0





4 0



Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,595 3

15 2

7,451 1


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