SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Dec. 8 The American Veterinary MedicalAssociation (AVMA) is joining other U.S. public health organizations in urgingeveryone to take their health into their hands by observing NationalHandwashing Awareness Week, December 7-13.
Created in 1999 by physician Dr. Will Sawyer due to a flu vaccine shortagein Cincinnati, National Handwashing Awareness Week is now observed across thecountry.
According to Dr. James O. Cook, president of the AVMA, proper handwashingcan greatly reduce the spread of disease between animals and people, known aszoonotic disease.
"We are exposed to germs or expose others to germs as we go through ourday, interacting with animals and other people," says Dr. Cook. "Keeping ourhands free of germs through proper handwashing is often the best way to avoidgetting sick or spreading diseases to other people."
Dogs and cats, especially those that go outside, can carry germs from theenvironment into the home on their fur, paws, or in their mouths. Someanimals, like turtles, iguanas, snakes, and lizards, often carry Salmonellabacteria. Petting zoos, farms, county fairs, and other sites that allow humancontact with farm animals pose a risk for the spread of E. Coli, among otherdiseases. Simple hand washing can reduce that risk.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year5,000 people die from food-borne illnesses. A direct link to many of thesedeaths is poor handwashing. In addition, there are 76 million food-borneillnesses resulting in more than 300,000 hospital admissions each year.
Dr. Cook says that it is critical to wash your hands before and after foodpreparation and eating, as well as after handling animals. Use soap andrunning water and scrub all surfaces of your hands for 20 seconds beforedrying with a paper towel.
If soap and water aren't available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can beused. Since 2002, the CDC has recommended that health care workers use thesesanitizers after treating patients, and Dr. Cook has fitted his animalhospital with sanitizer dispensers outside of each exam room.
"Simple steps such as these go a long way in preventing the spread ofdisease among my staff and clients," said Dr. Cook.
For more information visit the AVMA's Web site at http://www.avma.org.
SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association