Everyone should share responsibility for preventing the spread of diseases like swine flu, SARS, avian influenza, diarrhoeal and skin diseases, and even the common cold, according to a report.
The swine flu scare has suddenly made people more aware of their surroundings.
And it is important because the regular emergence of new pathogenic strains and their unpredictable behaviour means that sustained investment in effective strategies of mitigation and containment make absolute sense.
But, to keep infections in check, a fundamental change is needed in people's approach to hygiene, where empowering families take on the responsibility.
"Although antibiotics and vaccines have given us unprecedented ability to prevent and treat killer diseases, hygiene is still fundamental to winning the battle against infectious disease in both developed and developing countries - and that's a job for all of us. This is not about shifting responsibility, it's about facing reality," said Professor Sally Bloomfield of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and one of the report's authors.
The report indicates that a significant proportion of global infectious disease could be prevented through improved hygiene practice coupled with the provision of adequate water and sanitation.
It concluded that, if the burden of these diseases is to be contained in an economically sustainable manner, it must be a responsibility, which is shared by all of us.
The authors argued that they needed a less agency-centred approach, which is more family-centred, empowering parents to better protect themselves and their families against infection.
Dr Elizabeth A Scott, also a co-author said: "The key to getting people to change their behaviour is to find a way to make hygiene behaviour more appealing and relevant by realigning it with other aspects of healthy living such as diet and exercise. People also need to understand that they can be proactive in protecting themselves and reducing their risk of acquiring an infection in their everyday lives."
Professor Martin Exner, a co-author of the report said that if we can prevent infections through good hygiene, we can also reduce the amount of antibiotics we need to prescribe.
Overprescription of antibiotics is the main cause of antibiotic resistance, which is threatening our ability to treat infections effectively when they occur.
"In the current climate where infectious disease agents and our immunity to these agents are constantly changing, we need to return to the "not-so-good old days" when our parents and grandparents knew that protecting themselves and their families against infectious diseases was part of their responsibility and an important part of daily life," said Bloomfield.
The study has been published for the International Scientific Forum of Home Hygiene.