Americans Have Dirty Paws

New report gives them a 'C' for hand hygiene

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WEDNESDAY, Sept. 22, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Americans are doing a crummy job of keeping their hands clean.

They got a "C" in hand hygiene in the 2004 Clean Hands Report Card produced by the Soap and Detergent Association.

The national health survey found that 43 percent of people seldom or never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing, and 32 percent don't always wash before eating lunch.

Even people who do wash their hands aren't doing it properly. The survey found that 54 percent of folks don't wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, the time it takes to effectively remove germs and dirt.

The survey produced some evidence that participants may have been engaging in a little wishful thinking about their hand-washing habits.

About 98 percent of people reported that they always or frequently washed their hands after going to the bathroom. That's at odds with a 2003 observational study by the American Society for Microbiology that found as many as one-third of public restroom users don't wash their hands.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about hand hygiene.

SOURCES: Soap and Detergent Association, news release, September 2004

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