Importance of Hand Hygiene

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Every day more than 270 people die from an infection contracted at a hospital in the United States. Healthcare associated infections (HAIs) exact a tremendous toll, resulting in increased morbidity, mortality, and adding from $28 billion to $40 billion each year to U.S. healthcare costs. Studies indicate that many HAIs are directly related to pathogens transmitted from patient to patient via the hands of healthcare workers, which occurs when workers fail to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines by not properly washing their hands before and after each patient contact.

In October 2008, the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final ruling denying hospital Medicare payments for hospital stay costs related to certain HAI. Moreover, most states now require mandatory public reporting of infection rates by hospital and publish this information. In these states, a consumer can review this information and opt for a hospital reporting the lowest rate of HAIs.

Similar concerns exist in other industries, such as those relating to the processing and preparation of food. Retail outlets such as restaurants and grocery stores, and other institutions such as nursing homes, are subject to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Food Code. In addition to requiring employees to wash their hands, the Food Code requires employers to monitor their employees' hand washing. Despite such extensive efforts to ensure that proper hand washing is performed, more than a quarter of all food-borne illnesses are thought to be due to improper hand washing, and it is estimated that food-borne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year.