Concerns about last year's H1N1 virus have had an impact on Americans' hand washing habits, according to a national survey conducted by Bradley Corporation of Menomonee Falls, a leading manufacturer of bathroom and locker room furnishings, including sinks, faucets, hand dryers, showers and lockers.
In Bradley's second Healthy Hand Washing Survey, 50 percent of the 1,053 respondents said they "wash their hands more thoroughly or longer or more frequently" in public restrooms as a result of the H1N1 virus – that's up from 45 percent in 2009 when the same question was asked.
"It's certainly a move in the right direction," says medical microbiologist Michael McCann, Ph.D., a professor of biology and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. "It's always a positive sign when we hear that more people are doing a better job washing their hands because hand washing is one of the easiest things to do to keep well."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is unequivocal about the benefits of hand washing, calling it critical in preventing infection and illness.
"Hand washing is a simple thing to do and it's the best way to prevent infection and illness," the agency says. And by "washing your hands," the CDC notes that nothing beats good old soap and water.
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, adults average two to four colds a year and children have about six to 10. In fact, the common cold is a leading cause of doctor visits and missed days from school and work.
"Since hand washing is the first defense in fighting off cold and flu germs, it's important to educate the public," says Jon Dommisse, director of marketing and product development at Bradley Corporation. "We hope our Healthy Hand Washing Survey calls attention to this important practice and the benefits of hand washing."
Bradley's Healthy Hand Washing Survey was conducted online July 7-15, 2010, and queried 1,053 American adults about their hand washing habits in public restrooms. Participants were from around the country, ranged in age from 18 to 65 and older and were fairly evenly split between men (46 percent) and women (54 percent).