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World Hand Hygiene Day - May 5

Hand hygiene is an essential aspect of infection prevention. That is why the World Health Organization is getting healthcare workers to unite on May 5th under the motto, “Unite for safety: clean your hands.” By creating a culture where hand hygiene and infection prevention are valued and taken seriously, we can successfully prevent infections.

As a healthcare provider, you play a key role in infection prevention. In addition to the medical aspects, you are also active in the areas of safety and quality, and this is evident in your own behavior. You wash your hands when going from patient to patient, use appropriate hygiene when handling materials that may risk infection, do patient safety checks on a regular basis, and thus contribute to the prevention of infection. Cleaning your hands is an important part of hand hygiene.


World Hand Hygiene Day 2022

When a health facility's "quality and safety climate or culture" values hand hygiene and infection prevention and control (IPC), this results in both patients and health workers feeling protected and cared for. 

To prioritize clean hands in health facilities, people at all levels need to believe in the importance of hand hygiene and IPC to save lives, by acting as key players in achieving the appropriate behaviors and attitudes towards it. In other words, health workers at all levels and people accessing health care facilities need to unite on ensuring clean hands.

This year's theme for World Hand Hygiene Day, 5 May 2022, is focused on recognizing that we can add to a facility's climate or culture of safety and quality through cleaning our hands but also that a strong quality and safety culture will encourage people to clean hands at the right times and with the right products.

Unite, talk and work together on hand hygiene for high quality safer care everywhere.


Why Hand Hygiene Is Important

Hand hygiene includes hand washing, hand disinfection, and skincare. While the first two measures remove contaminations or render germs harmless, the latter maintains the natural skin barrier.

According to the WHO, up to 50% of preventable healthcare-associated infections could be prevented through proper hand hygiene – among patients as well as healthcare workers themselves. However, factors such as lack of education, inadequate access to clean water, or too few opportunities for hygiene at the point of care mean that healthcare-associated infections are still a major burden in the healthcare sector today.

Moreover, healthcare-associated infections do not only affect health but also pose an enormous economic risk to healthcare institutions through staff shortages or prolonged bed occupancy. Improving hand-hygiene measures can lead to significant savings, on average 16 times the cost of implementing them.


By The Numbers

  • Adequate hand hygiene prevents up to 50% of preventable nosocomial infections.
  • Globally, 1 in 4 health facilities lack a basic water supply, affecting the health care of 1.8 billion people.
  • Even in high-income countries, hand hygiene compliance rarely exceeds 70%.
  • In Europe, 8.9 million nosocomial infections occur annually in acute and long-term care facilities. 
  • According to the CDC, handwashing can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related illnesses and 1 in 5 infections, including the flu.
  • About 1.4 million children under the age of 5 die from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia – the two most deadly afflictions for children worldwide.
  • The CDC also reports that only 31% of men and 65% of women washed their hands after using a public restroom.
  • A typical human sneeze exits the body at about 200 miles per hour and emits around 40,000 droplets into the air.
  • On average, you come into contact with 300 surfaces every 30 minutes, exposing you to 840,000 germs.
  • Only about 5% of people wash their hands correctly.
  • Most people only wash their hands for 6 seconds.
  • Around 33% of people don’t use soap when washing their hands.
  • Up to 80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch.
  • Failing to wash hands correctly contributes to nearly 50% of all foodborne illness outbreaks.
  • Only 20% of people wash their hands before preparing food, and 39% before eating food.
  • About 7% of women and 15% of men do not wash their hands at all after using the bathroom.
  • Most bacteria on our hands are on the fingertips and under the nails.
  • Damp hands are 1,000x more likely to spread bacteria than dry hands.
  • There is fecal matter on 10% of credit cards and 16% of cellphones.
  • Elevator buttons harbor 22% more bacteria than toilet seats.


Joining Forces For Infection Prevention

It's time we work harder to protect patients' lives and make healthcare safer. Whether you are a building manager, a healthcare provider, a policymaker, or a hospital director, we know you are already giving your best – and for that we would like to say thank you. Keep up the good work, take the right actions and challenge your routines. Be part of it and help shape an organizational climate today and in the future in which hand hygiene and infection prevention are essential components!


The Four Main Principles of Handwashing

Not only is handwashing important, but it is also the easiest and most effective way to prevent spreading diseases. According to the American Medical Association, there are four main principles to handwashing:

  • Wash your hands when they are dirty and before eating.
  • Do not cough into your hands.
  • Do not sneeze into your hands.
  • Above all, do not put your fingers in your eyes, nose, or mouth.

As far as the best soap to use, the FDA says that there is no evidence proving that antibacterial soap helps kill germs any better than using plain soap and water. In fact, long-term use of antibacterial soap could have negative effects on your health. The best thing to use when washing your hands is plain soap and clean water.

According to the CDC, when you wash your hands you should do the following.

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

The best thing to do if you do not have soap and clean water available is to use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations. However, sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals, so you should follow up by washing your hands with soap and water as soon as possible. To get the best use of your hand sanitizer:

  • Apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.

Hand Hygiene is one of the most effective actions to reduce the spread of pathogens and prevent infections, including the COVID-19 virus. There is a wide range of WHO campaign materials such as posters, social media assets, selfie boards, web banners, Zoom backgrounds, etc. available in the six official UN languages. All assets are available to download through the below link.


Download campaign materials



Filed Under: Events, awareness, event, hand hygiene